Farmers’ union celebrates centenary

The National Farmers’ Uion of Scotland has celebrated its centenary by bringing together many of the farmers and staff who have shaped the organisation over the years, along with those who will drive the union forward into its next century.

The lunchtime event at Ingliston House, within the Royal Highland Showground, saw past presidents and former chief executives of the union meet current staff, office-holders, secretaries and members to celebrate 100 years of representing Scotland’s farmers, growers and crofters. The toast to NFU Scotland was given by Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

The inaugural meeting of the NFUS took place in the Religious Institution Rooms, 200 Buchanan Street, Glasgow, on Wednesday, October 1, 1913, with farmer and auction mart owner William Donald, Fordelhill, Kilmarnock elected as its first president.

Four resolutions were put to the packed meeting. The most important stated: “This meeting of farmers and others resolves and pledges itself to form a union with the object of mutual help and the furthering of the interests of farmers in general and dairy farmers in particular to be called The Farmers’ Union.”

By 1918, membership had grown to 6000 and the union had set up a committee structure to deal with the wide range of challenges faced at that time.

Addressing the reception, president Nigel Miller, the 60th farmer to hold the position, said: “This day is dedicated to those who crowded into that packed hall in Glasgow 100 years ago and took the brave but unanimous decision to create an organisation that would strengthen and support the position of Scotland’s farmers.

“A century on, NFU Scotland has grown to become the recognised voice of Scottish agriculture and the leader when it comes to representing the views of farming businesses across the land. I am delighted that so many of the past presidents and chief executives who helped deliver that vision could join current staff and office-holders here today.

“We remain, first and foremost, a membership organisation – created by farmers, for farmers. Our original root, branch and committee structure survives largely intact ensuring that the views of our farming members still set and drive the union’s lobbying priorities when dealing with governments in Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels.

“However, that same structure also provides local offices and a network of secretaries and regional staff to help members deal with local issues and individual problems.

“Dismal dairy prices were a driving factor behind the creation of the union. Dairy farmers were receiving sixpence per gallon in 1913 but stronger representation saw prices improve dramatically to three shillings per gallon by 1917 and the foundations were laid for the creation of milk selling agencies by 1924.

“Our Milk Committee typifies the work that goes on in every sector and every commodity. We are working hard to promote formula pricing, develop co-operation in the sector, looking at the role of producer groups and producer organisations and fully endorsing the forward-looking vision for Scottish dairying in 2025 unveiled in last week.

“These are exciting times for anyone involved in the Scottish food and drink sector and, more than ever, the union is forging stronger links between the farmgate and those who process, sell or consume our products.

“Farmers can rightly take pride in the reputations forged by our meat and drinks industries, the encouraging development within our soft fruit and poultry sectors, our reputation for healthy stock – be it livestock, potatoes or plants – and our role in meeting newer challenges such as climate change through renewables.

“In the past 100 years, NFU Scotland has put food and farming at the heart of Scotland and that is a strategy that we are committed to maintain for the next generation of Scottish farmers who follow in our footsteps.”