Platform is used to drive discussion

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NFU Scotland has used its regular slot at AgriScot to drive discussion with the membership on the priorities for Scottish farming in the challenging times ahead.

The Union’s packed seminar saw President Allan Bowie and Vice Presidents Rob Livesey and Andrew McCornick map out existing work streams for the Union across the wide range of sectors and policy areas in which NFU Scotland is engaged.

Most importantly, the floor was opened to the membership for their views on what needs to be tackled now, and what the Union’s priorities should be as we move into a post-Brexit era.

Speaking on the Beef Efficiency Scheme, Vice President Andrew McCornick said: “The scheme and its £45 million funding stream has the potential to change our beef sector at farm level but, to date, progress in rolling it out to the industry has been disappointing.

“There is farmer buy-in to this scheme but the delays in delivering tissue tags simply underlines the need for the Scottish Government to get back on the front foot on this issue.

“The roll out of the new ScotMoves cattle movement system on January 1 will be a challenge to those well used to the existing linked holdings system.

“If properly explained by Scottish Government to producers, it should identify that for many the shift shouldn’t present any more difficulties when compared to what is currently required. Post-Brexit however it does present an opportunity for Scotland to re-examine the benefits of introducing electronic tagging into our cattle herds.

“And on milk, there remains huge frustration at grassroots level that the surge in markets is filtering back too slowly to producers.”

Not only do we need to re-examine and encourage uptake of the voluntary code on milk contracts, to strengthen producers’ hands but we need to consider market tools such as forward selling or futures so that they are better placed to cope with volatility going forward.”

Speaking on greening, Vice President Rob Livesey voiced disappointment stating: “One of the first ministerial commitments we received from Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing was to strip out gold-plating in our greening rules. That exposed a conflict amongst departments in Scottish Government on who leads on this crucial matter.

Excuses from Scottish Government on greening contrasts with information we have had from EU on what greening measures are acceptable and the clear scope for Scottish Government to remove much of the gold-plating it has introduced.

“The shift from Less Favoured Areas to Areas of Natural Constraint presents a real challenge but for the sake of those farming in challenging circumstances we must get it right. Long term, we must make sure our rural development schemes are more relevant to what active Scottish farmers and crofters need.

“And as we enter the winter, the disastrous floods of last January are never far from our minds. We believe SEPA has a far clearer understanding of what is needed to properly manage watercourses but the change of pace remains frustrating. Working with NFUS, roll out of pilot schemes and adoption of river management measures are being pushed ahead.”