Vice President's Blog - 18 October 2019

I've often said that where we are in Scotland in terms of both the quality of products we produce, and also the standards they’re produced to, puts us in pole position when it comes to sustainable agriculture and being part of the solution when it comes to climate change. This is something that we should be proud of but don't, as yet, get recognition for.

One of the reasons agriculture in Scotland is leading the way when it comes to innovation, technology, animal welfare and environmental enhancement, is the fact we have some of the best scientists and researchers in the world here in Scotland, who research and develop new ideas that takes agriculture forward in a manner that benefits all of us.

Whether this is the knowledge from the consumer that our products are safe, or the understanding from environmentalists that we are doing all we can to improve our stewardship of the land by taking care of our soils and reducing our carbon footprint. I'm certain all sectors of our industry could do more but without high quality research and development, improving what we do would be impossible.

One real worry we have in maintaining this world leading ability to research and develop cutting edge technology, that will continue to drive our industry forward, is the same worry the whole industry has, and that's money.

All our research institutes come under the umbrella organisation known as SEFARI (Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes) and without proper investment to continue their valuable work we risk losing something that Scotland can be extremely proud of.

There are so many things that we take for granted that I'm sure many people are not aware of. Things like heptavac, one of the many vaccines to massively help our industry and something that we have used for many years, was developed at the Moredun Institute.

The Moredun Institute is involved in huge range of research at the moment; from Cryptosporidium, Johnes, and Mastitis to name but a few.

The James Hutton Institute is also leading the world when it comes to new technologies such as Vertical Farming, something our board visited recently and were seriously impressed by.

All our SEFARI organisations are looking at ways to bottom out the facts to give a more balanced picture of where our industry sits within climate change. I'm pretty confident these facts will highlight how positive Scottish agriculture is in terms of carbon sequestration, something we get absolutely no recognition for due to the existing calculations allowed under the Paris agreement. This absurd calculation means we can only count the negatives, something that is fundamentally wrong, especially since agriculture is the only industry that has the ability to sequester carbon whilst at the same time produce food.

NFU Scotland is delighted to have on board a fellowship from the SEFARI organisations in the name of Dr Gemma Miller, who will be specifically looking into emissions and sequestration from agriculture relevant to climate change.

I'm sure most of you read her very informative blog recently where she highlighted how important it is for our industry to get the facts right. Gemma also explains why she is qualified to collate and verify these facts with all the knowledge and expertise she has alongside the information available through the other SEFARI organisations. Real factual evidence based on proper scientific research is the only way to get the true picture of our industry.

One thing Scotland must protect is our ability to be world a leader when it comes to research and development. So proper, meaningful investment must be available to allow us to maintain this envied position.

How good would it be for Scotland to be the first in the world to say, our agricultural industry is carbon positive. Considering our sequestration we may already be there, but without credible factual evidence developed by top scientists our voice won't be heard.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is a tenant farmer in Aberfeldy, Highland Perthshire and farms with his wife Jane and three daughters. They have 600 ewes and 60 cows on the farm rising from 800ft to 2,500ft. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire Branch chair, before representing East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009. Martin went on to be Vice-Chair before chairing the committee for three years. He was elected Vice-President in 2017 and elected as President in 2021.

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