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Bowie Delivers First ‘State of The Union’ Address

President calls for urgent clarity on CAP at Union Council

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie has used his first ‘state of the Union’ address to NFU Scotland’s Council to call on Scottish Government to urgently reveal CAP payment details to the industry.

Mr Bowie, who was elected President in February, was addressing the Union’s council meeting, staged in the Alona Hotel, Strathclyde park today (28 October).

The Union has been crystal clear in recent weeks that it does not believe payments under the new CAP systems will arrive in December as promised and it has called once again for the Scottish Government to inform farmers and crofters when they can realistically expect payments and what the value of those payments will be.

That would not only give farming families the opportunity to plan ahead but would allow them to engage with the wider supply trade and their banking providers to make sensible business decisions.

While recognising the huge pressures currently faced by all farming sectors, the President also used his address to outline his confidence in the future prospects for farming.  Stressing his willingness to engage in the Scottish Government’s current discussion on the vision for the industry, Mr Bowie said that the document’s primary focus must change to ensuring a profitable sector first and foremost, from which the desired benefits around innovation and the environment would flow.

Speaking to Council, Mr Bowie said:
“In the current turmoil, the primary questions for our membership remain - when will CAP support payments be delivered by Scottish Government and what value will be attached to those payments?

“But let’s clear up a few point first. Yes, the Union called for a three region model, phased transition and coupled support. These were essential if we were to see Scotland’s limited budget being spent fairly and wisely and supported by the majority of our members.

“Yes, we knew and were told that more complexity would increase the risk of payments coming later. That was a risk we judged was worth taking and yes – we did tell Sottish Government that they, we and others must be frank with the industry about this risk.  And NFUS has delivered that message to members over the past year and a half.

“However, the reality is that Scotland made its policy decisions in June 2014 - almost 17 months ago - and Scottish Government has spent £178 million to date putting a system in place to deliver it.

“At our AGM in February, we heard from the Cabinet Secretary that everything was on track for payments to be made in the normal early December window.  Ever since the Highland Show, the Scottish Government has changed its line to payments being made in late December.

“I would be the first to congratulate them if they met that timetable, but it’s blatantly obvious to NFUS that they won’t, and I don’t understand why they won’t say as much. 

“Farmers, crofters and the entire supply chain that depends on them, need clarity – and we need it now! With clarity, we can plan and we can tighten our belts accordingly.  With the current uncertainty, all we can do is worry and speculate.

“The Union is taking its responsibilities seriously and we are already engaged with the agricultural supply trade and tomorrow we will meet with the main clearing banks.

“My message to the Cabinet Secretary is clear – the ball is in your court. Tell the farming industry when payments will be delivered and tell them the value…and for goodness sake please do it immediately!

“When speaking on CAP, it is essential that we once again raise our concerns over Scotland’s greening measures.  How can one of the greenest agricultural systems in Europe be lumbered with such a set of ill thought through and gold plated rules? It baffles me, and moreover, it disappoints me that Scottish Government has repeatedly disregarded our advice and recommendations and left our growers disadvantaged when compared to fellow growers south of the Border.”

Looking to the future, Mr Bowie was keen to ensure all Governments and the supply chain play their role in getting the agricultural sector through this current storm and that a profitable and stable industry emerges on the other side.

Mr Bowie said:  “Speaking to farmers and crofters up and down the country, I am absolutely clear on how difficult things are at the moment.  We have a perfect storm of poor product prices, spiralling input costs, a dysfunctional supply chain, the insidious creep of regulation and support payment concerns. And to compound it all, the Euro is now worth 12.5% less against the Pound than it was just two years ago!

“Scottish agriculture delivers a huge amount for the consumer, society and the environment. It is essential that all Governments, the supply chain and consumers realise that every penny invested in Scottish agriculture, every muscle strained to help it at this difficult time, is an investment that will pay back with interest in the long term.

“When I was standing for election in February, I made it clear that I wanted the Union, and Scottish agriculture, to look more to the market to help build a stable and profitable future.

“The Scottish Government is consulting on where we all want our industry to go in the coming years and decades. I quite like what they’ve put out as a discussion document but we all know that you can’t be green if you’re in the red.  This Scottish Government vision needs to put a profitable industry as its primary objective, and I am confident that if it does, then we will all be willing and able to invest in innovation and deliver more for the environment.

“It is easy to be cynical about such documents but I believe that, given the perfect storm we are currently in, now is the time to make the changes we need so that when we get through the storm, we like what lies beyond.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 207/15


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