Agriculture is “heavily driven by politics” but the union continues to be a buffer between farmers and “unrealistic policy makers”.
So said NFU Scotland’s 60th president, Stow livestock farmer Nigel Miller, in the week of the union’s centenary.
Farmers and staff celebrated the landmark with a lunch at Ingliston House in Edinburgh last Wednesday.
The toast at the event, attended by past presidents and chief executives, current staff, office holders, secretaries and members, was given by Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Richard Lochhead.
Mr Miller, of Stagehall Farm, 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.”
The union’s inaugural meeting was in the Religious Institution Rooms, Buchanan Street, Glasgow, on Wednesday, October 1, 1913.
Mr Miller continued: “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.
“We remain totally reliant on those farmers who volunteer their time to represent their fellow farmers.”
When asked about changes over the years, Mr Miller told The Southern: “Although farm businesses are larger, we operate in a market sometimes driven by world commodity prices and, with the major retailers significant customers, working together has never been more important.
“Agriculture is still heavily driven by politics: in the EU food security is becoming a more significant driver, but climate change and environmental stewardship are shaping today’s agricultural policy.
“In reality, operating standards are driven from Europe and increasingly farmers need to influence the Brussels process while working with both UK and Scottish governments to safeguard our interests, communities and the rural economy.
“Despite the budget cuts there is still a significant EU spend in Scotland channelled through farming.
“The Union is the voice of Scottish farmers and provides the bridge between real producers and the policy makers, while providing a buffer against unrealistic auditors and regulators.
“The role has changed. We are more international now, with a real presence and focus in Brussels. We are working more closely with EU colleagues. There is increasing involvement with processors and retailers and the union policy team stretches over a wider range of issues – environment, forestry, renewable energy and animal health have ongoing input from policy managers.
“Our communications team still produce a monthly magazine and specialist briefings but we are increasingly using social media and texting to communicate with members.”
Future work, he said, will involve opening up a support structure for a new generation of farmers. “
He added: “Entering farming is a severe challenge and with an aging industry this focus on the next generation must be a priority.”.