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Vice President's Blog - 25 September 2017

Politicians and policy makers must ensure that whilst we as a union are keen to drive 'change', too much would put at risk what we already have writes Vice President Martin Kennedy.

The recent announcement by the Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing on income stabilisation is very welcome and comes at a time when most farmers and crofters are extremely strapped for cash (as shown with Scottish farm borrowing going up over £100m in the last year), but they are also very worried about what the future will bring.

The agricultural sector is continually asked to do more, although at the same time work thanklessly on an ever-decreasing margin.

I have just attended a sharing good practice event at Battleby near Perth where all in the room were trying to find the best way forward to encourage farmers and crofters to get more involved in biodiversity. I hasten to add, I think I was the only full-time farmer in the room.

I had the opportunity to give a 10-minute presentation where I tried to highlight that while there may be some farmers out there who 'could do more', most in fact do a great job of looking after our landscape, hence the reason Scotland is almost green by definition, in comparison to many other countries.

If there was a drive to increase biodiversity benefits on farm then, as this is seen to be public benefit, then the public purse would have to raise the support to implement this.  Otherwise, it will simply not be taken up.

The bit that concerns me is that many of meetings I have attended recently don't get the farmer or crofter’s view. These views are paramount, as we farm around 75% of Scotland's land mass so we have a massive influence on how to either preserve or protect our environment.

Mr Ewing has highlighted several times now that we are in fact the caretakers and environmentalists on the land.  He must back this up by making sure we are rewarded not just the high quality produce we provide but also recognition for what we are doing to keep our landscapes productive and attractive to all, including our wildlife.

Speaking of wildlife, this absolutely crazy idea of re-wilding with lynx needs to be put to bed once and for all.

Even a small controlled trial will lead to inevitable escape and that will have devastating effects on our already vulnerable sheep stocks. When you listen to our Norwegian partners you understand how serious this issue could be, and that's in a landscape where there are much greater areas between domestic and wild animals. We've already seen the result of reintroducing sea eagles and beavers.

Geese are another increasing problem, and whilst there is still some support going into Islay, the end of the adaptive management pilots and subsequent £10,000 challenge fund replacement for Tiree, Coll, the Uists and Orkney is causing massive concern. What conservationists and government need to realise is that if it weren't for farmers and crofters investing heavily in their land to produce good quality silage, grazing or barley, these geese wouldn't be there in the first place. So, either future funding needs to be increased or bag limits need to be increased dramatically or the end result will be no farmers, no crofters and ultimately no geese either.

Food production is still the core activity and focus of agriculture in Scotland, with massive economic and environmental benefits gained from it.

We need to be very careful going forward that the unintended consequences of trying to do more, doesn't result in us losing what we already have.

Author: Martin Kennedy

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Daye Tucker

79 days ago

Without drilling down into the reasons for increased borrowing, the increase might equally be evidence of increased confidence by both farmers and lenders?
Daye Tucker

79 days ago

Lack of practical farmer input at these meetings is nothing new. Pressure of work driven by market pressures and ever shorter weather windows will ensure poor attendance continues. It is long past time that more effort from the desk based sector was put into getting their organisation representatives out onto farms even if we have to supply them with wellies and waterproofs.
Lorraine G Luescher

75 days ago

I agree 100% with your thoughts Martin. Please read my response to the Change document which very much mirrors what I think you're saying.
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About The Author

Martin Kennedy

Martin is married with three daughters and farms with his wife Jane in Highland Perthshire on a hill farm rising to 2,500ft. They have 600 breeding ewes, 30 continental cows and 30 Highlanders. Martin served two years as Highland Perthshire branch President, he first represented East Central region on the LFA committee in 2009 before being elected as Vice Chairman for three years. He is currently serving his second year as Chairman. He is a past chairman of Aberfeldy Show and Highland Games, a post he held for six years.

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