Vice President's Blog - 13 December

Now that NFU Scotland's future agricultural policy roadshows are over, Vice President Martin Kennedy reflects on the responses that we have received back in from the many members who attended.

It is safe to say the feedback from the future agricultural policy roadshows has been very positive, focussing on how we think our future policy should be designed and implemented, and it is extremely important to take on board all the comments and ideas that have come from our members.

Whether it is from arable producers on our limited areas of better land who are concerned about reduced future tools in the toolbox to tackle various pests and diseases; our crofting members with a whole raft of difficult issues to overcome including crofting reform or our milk and livestock producers who are seriously concerned about future trade; it is clear that in a period of huge uncertainty everyone involved in Scottish agriculture really needs to know that someone is fighting their corner.

This difficult job of covering everything from soft fruit and vegetables through to pigs, poultry and LFA livestock lies squarely with NFU Scotland.  With all the political uncertainty that's unfolding each day we turn the radio or TV on, it has never been more important that farming and crofting has a loud and clear voice that is heard above all the noise.

I mentioned that feedback is important. The reason for this is because it is not the Presidential Team's policy or opinion that matters, nor is it that of the Union's staff.  It is the opinions and views of everyone who pays an NFU Scotland subscription that matter. Everybody who pays this subscription is entitled to a voice and it is our job to collate these voices, build a general consensus from this and lobby to all governments to try and achieve the right outcome.

There is absolutely no doubt that we will never please everyone, that's a given, and sometimes it's frustrating when decisions are taken that has an adverse impact on an individual business. The reality is we have the best interests of Scottish agriculture, the big picture, to put front and centre. This is the only way we can be assured of a better and more prosperous future for Scottish agriculture.

Back to the roadshows, which covered the whole of the country and resulted in both the President and I ending up with struggling voices and sore throats. Obviously our Director of Policy Jonnie Hall, who attended all the roadshows bar two, has the better stamina - maybe running some fifty miles every week is good for you after all?

Without question, we are presently in a state of chaos as politicians from all parties become entangled in the politics of Brexit. That aside, as a union we have never taken our eye off the ball and whatever the outcome of the politics, we think we have a policy direction that will fit for the whole of Scotland, will be adaptable to the trade outcomes that are ahead and to whatever future support budget will be apportioned to Scotland.

Coming up with this direction is only possible through consultation with our members and it is incumbent upon us to take all these views on board from our roadshows, both last year and this year and along with all other feedback in between.

Having the support of our members makes a massive difference to us when it comes to lobbying, as this gives us a huge mandate and helps carry the message to those who will ultimately make the decisions.

There may well be a better plan out there, and if there is that would be fantastic, but at present it remains completely hidden. Until we see a credible alternative plan, what we have laid on the table can deliver for all Scotland's needs, including environmental and climate change objectives.

Constantly lobbying for what is right for our industry takes time and resources, and I again would urge everyone who is not currently a member of NFU Scotland to become part of this fantastic organisation.  Being a member of the Union not only means having your own voice heard, but it also adds to the hugely influential voice of thousands of fellow farmers and crofters to make NFU Scotland the most effective influence in securing a brighter future for Scottish agriculture and all that it underpins.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin Vice President of NFU Scotland and is a tenant farmer in Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters, Jillian, Katrina and Yvonne. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to over 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch chairman, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin then went on to be vice chairman then chaired the committee for three years. He has served as Vice President of NFUS for two years and is currently sitting on his third.

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