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Change Drives Union’s Conference Agenda

Cabinet Secretary part of packed programme for two-day event

Preparing Scotland’s farmers and crofters for post-Brexit change is the theme running through NFU Scotland’s packed two-day AGM, dinner and conference being held in Glasgow next month.

For the second year in succession, the event will be staged at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow city centre and takes place on Thursday 8 February and Friday 9 February.  The event comes at a time of great challenges and opportunities for Scotland’s farming, food and drink sectors as the clock ticks towards the UK’s intended exit from the EU on Friday 29 March 2019 – only 14 months away.

The morning session on the first day of an exciting conference programme leads with the Presidential address by Andrew McCornick where he will map out the Union’s next steps as it seeks to ensure that Scotland’s farmers and crofters secure the very best Brexit deal in terms of support, policy, trade and labour.

The Thursday afternoon will commence with a session on growing our booming food and drink industry, currently Scotland’s largest manufacturing sector, led by Dennis Overton who will take on the chairmanship of Scotland Food and Drink in April while the hot topic of agriculture and future environmental stewardship will be addressed by Terry A’Hearn, CEO of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Pointers as to how innovation may provide the key to farm businesses surviving and thriving post-Brexit will come from two South West rural entrepreneurs. Tracey Roan, of Roan’s Dairy, has established a business that is ‘fresher than the udders’ while Duncan McConchie of Laggan Outdoor has, in ten years, built a family farm-based tourism venture recognised as Scotland’s best Outdoor/Adventure experience.

In terms of future trading arrangements for Scotland and the UK, much has been made of the ‘Norwegian Model’.  Following an NFUS study trip to Norway in the autumn, delegates will hear from Eirik Magnus Fuglestad of Ruralis, the Norwegian Institute for Rural and Regional research. New entrant Kristoffer Moan, from Trondheim, will also speak about the challenges he faces as a Norwegian beef and sheep farmer, including predation by lynx.

Day Two of the conference (Friday 9 February) will open with Scottish farmers and crofters being challenged to engage with the public and show what farming delivers in terms of food production, the environment and the local economy.  Delegates will hear from Annabel Shackleton and Jane Craigie from the successful ‘Open Farm Sunday’ initiative as well as Dundee farmer and businesswoman Caroline Millar, a participant in Open Farm Sunday and Director of GoRural, which specialises in supporting the development of agritourism, food and drink and rural businesses.

The conference session concludes on Friday morning when Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing will deliver the keynote speech to delegates.

Commenting on the prospect of an exciting event, NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “With Brexit looming, the future for Scotland and the UK remains frustratingly unclear and is subject to intense debate.  NFU Scotland, at a political level, remains on the front foot in a bid to secure the very best deal for our industry, and this conference will continue the process of encouraging our membership to recognise that change is coming.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters are the cornerstone of a food and drink sector justifiably lauded as one of Scotland’s economic success stories.  Those producing the raw materials for our food and drink are the crucial element of what is now the nation’s largest manufacturing sector.  They are also the life blood of our rural economy and responsible for the countryside and environment enjoyed by millions.

“But the reality is that farm incomes are falling, suggesting food chains must change in the future if all parties are to benefit from the ambitious targets for our food and drink sector.  Similarly, environmental rhetoric rarely recognises the public good that Scotland’s farmers and crofters already deliver.

“This conference presents an opportunity for key stakeholders to provide their vision for Scottish agriculture.
“A part of that vision may involve farm businesses embracing the need to diversify and we have inspirational speakers to illustrate what taking the leap into the unknown world of a diversification project might involve.

“And we also tackle the thorny issue of how, as an industry, we engage, educate and inform the Scottish public about farming and where their food comes from.  We have a great story to tell, but it is important that we share it.   Brexit must bring a new, properly-supported agricultural policy for Scotland but it will also bring the need to explain the full range of benefits that farming, and crofting bring in return for the continued support of our taxpayers.”   

Notes for Editors

  • The Union’s AGM, conference and showcase annual dinner will be staged at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Glasgow on Thursday 8 February and Friday 9 February.  
  • Media interested in attending the event can email: media@nfus.org.uk

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 08/18


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