NFU sets election priorities for agriculture

Stagehall farmer Nigel Miller who is bidding to become the president of N.F.U. Scotland.
Stagehall farmer Nigel Miller who is bidding to become the president of N.F.U. Scotland.

TOP priorities for farmers are getting a flexible CAP, proportionate penalties, cutting red tape, getting fairer prices from supermarkets and balancing land use.

So says NFU Scotland in the list of action areas for politicians it launched last week in the run-up to the Scottish elections on May 5.

Speaking to TheSouthern on Tuesday, the NFUS chairman, Stow farmer Nigel Miller, said: “The really important political issue is CAP: if politicans get that wrong we could see quite a lot of farming businesses destroyed. It’s the political priority for us and the Scottish government has a real role in that. Scottish agriculture is different from the rest of UK and it’s important that information is fed in through Westminster to Europe.”

In its manifesto, the union challenges the next Holyrood administration to press the UK government to take account of Scotland’s priorities in a reformed CAP which it says should be flexible, transparent and ensure that only active farmers get subsidies.

The document continues: “We must have a more proportionate system of inspections and penalties under the CAP, focused on outcomes, not the technicalities of process, and recognising that genuine errors must be dealt with fairly.”

The union calls on the new government to minimise farmers’ administrative burdens and says it must consider the need to balance the competing priorities of food, security and climate change.

It wants the government to help get fairer prices for farmers from supermarkets, saying it “must do everything within its power” to ensure better and fairer relations within the food and drink supply chain.

Mr Miller said: “We need to get a supply chain which functions and where the real value of the product gets reflected back to the producer rather than being utilised as margins for big retailers.”

Climate change, food security and energy security issues have risen in prominence since the 2007 elections while there has been a revival in consumer interest in local, high quality food and drink said Mr Miller. “The importance of Scottish agriculture in providing plentiful, safe and nutritious food in a sustainable fashion is clearly increasing,” he went on. “Our ability to produce renewable energy is also of rapidly increasing interest and potential.

“Scottish farming is diverse and, in many respects, thriving. It is also crucial to Scotland’s rural economy, underpinning it economically, environmentally and socially.”

Concerning the recession, Mr Miller said: “It must be remembered that Scottish farming and its associated industries can help to provide a bedrock of recovery.”