SAVED: PAGE: ACTIVE AREA:

Vice President's Blog - 3 November 2017

Inevitably, Brexit has become top of the agenda on the NFUS priority list, but can we learn from others’ experience asks Vice President Martin Kennedy.

There's no doubt we are heading into a territory that has been unfamiliar to us for well over 40 years. Although there are obvious risks involved with this imminent change, there are also huge opportunities to try and develop an agricultural policy that will best suit Scotland, that will help drive productivity, make businesses more profitable and, as important, deliver for our precious environment.

One thing we must do is look at how other countries fare that are not part of the EU, but who also trade with them. One country that operates this way is Norway.

Along with our Environment and Land Use committee chairman, Angus McFadyen, and Deputy Director of Policy Andrew Bauer, we opted to go to Norway and look at the much discussed ‘Norwegian’ model.

From the outset, this visit was the most informative, enlightening and interesting visit I have been on yet.

There are many key differences between Norway and ourselves, ranging from, regulation, the amount of available budget, agricultural policy, issues with predation right through to infrastructure and, over a series of articles and blogs, I'll highlight what some of these are.

Agricultural policy and budget in Norway is sorted out on an annual basis between the government and the farming unions, of which there are two, the Norwegian NFU and the Small Farmers Union. The former is the largest with 63,000 members, and recognised by the government as being an official party in annual negotiations.

The average age of a farmer in Norway is 54 and almost one-third of farmers are women. This has probably been driven by the regulation change in the 1970's where the farm could no longer be only handed down to the oldest son, but now must go to the oldest child. Eventually, through natural progress, half of farmers in Norway will be women.

When it comes to regulations there are many in Norway, but when you speak to farmers, they see regulation that's implemented there as something which benefits their agriculture and way of life.

For example, if you ever sell a farm or hand on a farm to the next generation (which is the clear majority) you cannot carve it up by either selling the house or by selling part of the land to someone else.

This has seen farming units stay the same in size for generations and leads to much more co-operation between them.

Indeed, prices for products are set by the co-ops, something I will talk about in a further article.

If you inherit or buy a farm, you also must live on it.  There's no such thing as an absentee landlord, they simply don't exist. On the rare occasion where a farm does come on the open market, there is a top price limit set by the government, which recognises the future ability to make that return from the investment made.

The Norwegian Government's backing for agriculture and recognition for what it does for their environment is hugely important in farmers’ minds.  Hence the reason that the 120 full time staff at Norway's NFU are continually trying to engage with not only their politicians, but also their consumers as it is the electorate who will influence decisions.

Next time, I'll highlight how Norway’s policy and support systems work and examine whether that provides valuable pointers for Scotland as we plough through the Brexit process.
 

Author: Martin Kennedy

Date Published:


< Article List

Close

Report Abusive Comment

Comment Content:

Why it offends me (optional):



Have Your Say

No-one has commented on this article yet. Be the first to have your say...

New Comment

Share

Total Pages:
Total Results:
Page Start:
Page Result #:

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.

©NFU Scotland • All Rights Reserved • Website presented on Big RedLog in