NFU Scotland has met with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the nation’s Environment Minister to plot out a positive future for food, farming and farm-based energy generation.
The meeting was the first between NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller and Richard Lochhead since Mr Lochhead was re-appointed to the Cabinet Secretary post following the Scottish parliamentary elections in May. They were joined by Stewart Stevenson, Scotland’s new Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
Following the meeting, Mr Miller said:
“There is a real determination from both sides to build on the achievements and the positives of the last four years and ensure that our food and farming industries continue to move forward and flourish.
“Discussions focussed on how we can continue to improve the performance of primary production and food processing industries in order to generate real growth and opportunities for the Scottish rural economy. Opening up routes for supporting collaborative processing initiatives will be increasingly important if we are to achieve a diverse and wide-ranging food sector for the future. At the same time, we need to identify and remove any barriers that may stifle and inhibit the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that a successful food and farming sector needs.
“We are committed to working with the Scottish Government to set out the options and opportunities for farm businesses so that farmers, their families and their employees can make choices on how to take their businesses forward.
“There was agreement that we must continue to proactively tackle the immediate issue of CAP reform and future support arrangements for farmers and crofters as volatility and uncertainty are stumbling blocks to farm business development. We discussed with Ministers the priorities for Scotland and securing flexibility in any deal on CAP that comes out of Europe that could allow us to distribute the single farm payment (SFP) in the way that best suits our industry’s needs.
“As part of the CAP package, both NFUS and the Scottish Government are committed to sorting out the problem faced by new entrants who do not have access to SFP. A problem that must be dealt with at the earliest opportunity.
“As part of any CAP negotiations, the onerous cross-compliance requirements and penalty regime must be factored in to EU discussions. We discussed with Ministers the possibility of Scotland operating a pilot scheme to show Europe how an industry-owned inspection system may operate. We believe this could ensure higher levels of compliance while allowing those who voluntarily join up to the scheme being able to opt out of Government inspections and penalties.
“Having Stewart Stevenson at the meeting provided us with an opportunity to discuss Scottish Government strategy on renewables and the important role that farm-based projects will play in meeting ambitious energy targets. For that potential to be realised, we need to work with Scottish Government and examine how we unlock the obstacles that are currently limiting on-farm developments.”