NFU Scotland Ready to Tackle ‘Perfect Storm’

President tells autumn conference of determination to tackle damaging political decisions, surging input prices and labour crisis

NFU Scotland’s President, Martin Kennedy has committed to tackling a ‘perfect storm’ of challenges head on when he addressed the Union’s autumn conference in Dunfermline today (28 October). Talking to 80 delegates in person, and a further 100 online, Mr Kennedy said Scottish and UK agriculture are facing some of the most serious challenges they have ever faced.

He specifically called for the UK Government to immediately address industry access to non-UK permanent and seasonal staff and immediately kickstart UK plants, so we are more self-sufficient in energy, fertiliser and carbon dioxide. And he called for the Scottish Government to place a moratorium on whole farm sales for carbon credits, introduce food production and the environment into the school curriculum and introduce proper labelling in the food service sector.

He said: “At the moment we face a perfect storm created by political decisions, the current covid pandemic and a loud minority of people who do not fully understand the reality of food production in this country, and unless we address this immediately, our ability to be a self-sustaining food and drink nation will be completely eroded.

“The immediate labour crisis is affecting all forms of food production and the impact of extremely high fertiliser prices and other input costs puts in serious doubt whether several crops will be grown next year, and yet the response from some of our retailers is to turn to imports.  That’s not good enough.  We need our politicians to develop a greater understanding of what the unintended consequences are of not taking action immediately, particularly on the labour crisis, and to understand that they themselves face the wrath of our consumers if they fail to deliver.”

Recognising that there is no silver bullet, Mr Kennedy said there are measures that would make a world of difference to farmers and crofters to give them the confidence to continue doing what they do best.

“First of all, we need to know that from a UK perspective, what we produce here is valued.  In the most recent trade deals signed with Australia and New Zealand we were not included to any of the negotiations.  The signals we are getting is that we are not valued, and agriculture is the pawn to get what UK Government wants.

“This has to change, we need to be informed and kept in the loop when it comes to international trade deals, or the current situation of being only 60% self-sufficient in food, which has dropped 20% in only a few decades, will drop even further. If we cannot feed ourselves, others will provide us with the basic necessity of food, and at the same time we will offshore our emissions to other countries, many of which do not share our climate or environmental ambitions.

“Scottish government must continue to place greater value on the importance of farmers and crofters, not only from a food production and economic point of view, but also from an environmental and socio-economic perspective. We know that we are going to have to do more in the future when it comes to emissions reduction and biodiversity enhancement.  This is already underway, and, from a global perspective, we are starting from a really good place here in Scotland.

“There is one serious issue that the Scottish government must address immediately because, if we don’t, we will be paying for this for generations to come.   Scotland is fast becoming the bargain basement for non-farming purchasers to invest in carbon credits to offset their own failings to better their own climate change credentials. This must stop and it must stop now.

“I can see massive opportunities in the carbon markets for annual management payments whereby we, as farmers and crofters, could benefit through management actions that are seen to enhance carbon capture, and I can also see many opportunities where planting trees that act as wildlife corridors or carbon sinks can help the environment and with livestock shelter and biosecurity on farms. However, that is completely different from wholescale farm plantings that take out not only good agricultural land but also the people who are the life and sole of the community.  The Scottish government must act on this now.”  Ends

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 126/21

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