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Policy Progress Promotes Positive Outlook

19 February 2010

SCOTLAND, UK - By continuing to progress positive policies for Scottish agriculture, National Farmers' Union (NFU) Scotland’s President, Jim McLaren, has predicted a brighter future for the nation’s food and farming industries.

Mr McLaren, delivering his keynote address to the Union’s AGM in St Andrews yesterday (18 February), highlighted that the progress made in key policy areas over the past 12 months has given him a sense of optimism for both NFU Scotland as an organisation and farming as an industry.

Elected as President in 2007, Mr McLaren is entering his final year in post. In his penultimate AGM address, he said: “A year ago, we laid out a number of conditions we would require to be met if Scottish agriculture was to play its part in a contract with society that would better recognise the way in which farmers and land managers manage and utilise Scotland's biggest asset – the land. In the past 12 months we have made considerable progress in virtually every area which gives me tremendous optimism for the times ahead and, as I enter my final year as President, my glass is definitely half-full.

“The fact that the fundamental role of food production and farming in supporting society is being recognised and increasingly appreciated by both the general public and politicians is, in large part, down to the continued efforts of NFU Scotland in promoting our sector on behalf of our members. We continue to build on our industry’s strong relationship with government at a Scottish level and welcome that the importance of food production is at last gaining greater recognition in both Europe and Westminster.

“Food security and food production is at the very heart of the current debate on the way in which support will be delivered to our sector in the future. By highlighting the wide benefits that public support delivers, there is widespread acceptance that despite forthcoming budgetary pressures, support for farming in the years ahead is wholly justified. We are engaged with Brian Pack’s ongoing review of support, and we continue to work with the Scottish Government and crucially, in Europe to shape how that support – whether available through the CAP or Scotland’s rural development funds - will target those actively managing the land in the future.

“In that regard, our Manifesto for the Hills document, launched in the autumn of 2008 to address the livestock decline in our hills and uplands, is bearing fruit. The Scottish Beef Calf Scheme is preserved; moves are underway to better recognise activity within the LFA scheme courtesy of the rebasing exercise; LFA payments have been boosted for some but not all of our hill farmers, and new LMO options targeted towards grazing are being discussed. While the speed of transition may be frustrating, there is genuine progress being made.

“If we are to continue meeting the public’s requirements for food, then we must try to ensure that our producers rear their livestock and grow their crops in as stable a marketplace as possible. At the same time, we have a right to expect that the wider supply chain will treat them in a fair and equitable manner. Our long running campaign for an ombudsman to police the grocery sector is, at last, on the brink of success and, regardless of what political party finds itself in power after May, we justifiably expect the creation of an ombudsman to be high on the list of priorities.

“The regulatory burden continues to weigh heavy on all our producers and the list continues to lengthen. European-led rules on pesticides, sheep EID, land eligibility for Single Farm Payments and disproportionate penalty rates will impact on producers this year and, disappointingly, there is fresh impetus within Europe to revisit animal transport laws. We are a small part of the European Union but we can be proud of the way in which we have worked at home and in Brussels to mitigate the worst of any legislation. At the same time we have successfully secured support and common-sense in the way the rules are introduced to the Scottish industry. That work remains a vital part of how NFU Scotland goes about its business.

“In my final year as President, I am committed to continuing to raise the membership and profile of NFU Scotland and, through a strategic review of the organisation, ensuring that it is fit for purpose to meet the challenges we face going forward. I want to preserve and enhance agriculture’s place in society and build on the opportunities that will come the way of our sector in the years ahead.

“Working towards a support system that best rewards active Scottish producers; continuing to supply the nutritional needs of a growing, and increasingly affluent society; developing a more stable marketplace for our members and securing recognition of the role of agriculture in tackling climate change issues will make the next 12 months an exciting and challenging time for NFU Scotland. I look forward to it with genuine optimism.”

TheCattleSite News Desk



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