Vice President's Blog - 8 June 2017

Future support payments must be targeted at active farmers and crofters who are willing to try and drive their businesses forward in an efficient and innovative manner writes Vice President Martin Kennedy

Only that approach will drive genuine economic and public benefit to Scotland and the rest of the UK. 

There is no doubt that whatever support package is achievable after Brexit, there will be a need to show public benefit, justifying any support our industry receives to the tax payer. 

The problem is, our current track record in highlighting the public and environmental benefits that we as farmers already provide, whether it be providing affordable high-quality food or being the true caretakers of the environment, isn’t good enough. 

I believe that we are now beginning to get some understanding and appreciation of our efforts from both politicians and the general public, but it’s just a start and there is a much longer road to travel yet than has already been ridden but we must keep the pressure on. 

Without question, we are right to be justifiably proud of the environment that surrounds us in Scotland.  It has been managed and shaped by agriculture for hundreds of years, and it was created through the necessity to provide food to feed an ever-increasing population. Soon, the world population is said to hit 9 billion which is going to require a serious amount of food. 

How will future agricultural policy in the UK strike that balance between environmental goods and food production? The recent CAP reform included an element of greening which amounted to around a third of the pillar one area payment we received. On the face of it you would think that this would be a good thing for the environment. 
Realistically, especially from a cereal producers’ perspective, it has been an absolute nightmare as they have been asked to jump through many hoops with very limited benefits. The sight of fields lying fallow for a year, growing weeds of all description which then need much greater chemical control to get back into production is quite hard to swallow especially when this is good land taken out of production. Or farmers feeling forced to grow crops that are not suitable for that environment which sometimes means a possible crop failure. 

A much cleverer approach is required that involves smarter greening that not only helps the environment but keeps this land productive. To my mind Scotland is green by definition and equivalence may play a part whereby Scotland should be looked at as a whole or at least in regions.

Post-Brexit we are going to be in unchartered territory and we must have some form of stability to allow our businesses to adjust to what is likely to be a more market-led return, but that needs a transition potentially spanning many years to see how trade deals etc. pan out. 

Budgets are going to be under ever increasing pressure, so it is vital that any support is properly targeted at those who are providing the one thing that we cannot live without. 

Food, don’t take it for granted!

Author: Martin Kennedy

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Lorraine G Luescher

1502 days ago

I completely agree with Martin. How about we run a photo/poster campaign of images linking food and the environment, for example photos of Scottish beef breeds and sheep in their native environment, and display these as large as possible in areas with the highest public and political footfall, starting in the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood and moving out to public places and buildings for example airports, train stations, bus stops, ferry terminals, motorways. We could run a photographic competition to encourage members to submit their most iconic images to help promote Scottish farming and its close connection with landscape, conservation and environment. Any good?
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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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