SCOTTISH NFU president, Stow farmer Nigel Miller, has welcomed the reappointment of Richard Lochhead as the cabinet secretary for rural affairs.
The re-elected SNP government announced on Monday that the environment secretary will keep his post.
Mr Miller said of the Moray MSP: “He has shown a refreshing and genuine commitment to taking forward Scotland’s food and farming sectors and it is good news for both industries that he remains in the driving seat.”
Mr Lochhead continuing in the role would help farmers to build on the good relationship they already had with the Scottish Government he said.
He continued: “There is a lot going on in our industry. It is important that we continue to be led by someone who already has considerable knowledge and experience in the way our industries operate. That gives the Cabinet Secretary an excellent platform to negotiate from, whether on crucial longer term issues like CAP [European Common Agricultural Policy ]reform or more immediate worries like the emerging problems around the sheep EID system. Those debates will be held at home, at Westminster and in Brussels, and having someone who has a proven track record in supporting Scottish agriculture is reassuring.”
SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, who campaigned with Mr Lochhead in Berwickshire, also welcomed the announcement.
“It was obvious that there was considerable mutual respect between Richard and those he met and that he is highly regarded by industry representatives. I am delighted he has been re-appointed and I know that rural policy in Scotland is again in safe hands.”
He said the SNP farming manifesto is “full of initiatives which will benefit the agriculture and associated food and drink sectors in the South of Scotland; key employment sectors that make a significant contribution to the regional economy”.
The SNP government plans to establish a national chain of community-based food networks that link up local suppliers with catering outlets, hotels and retailers.
Mr Wheelhouse continued: “We will create a £1 million Great Scottish Food Challenge to support the development of new products alongside the creation of new links between our creative and food sectors to improve packaging and labelling and therefore the marketability of new Scottish products.
“We also propose an added value campaign – a farm to fork, net to plate initiative – to maximise the economic return for farming and fishing producers and we will make use of existing global networks to create Scottish food and drink ambassadors to promote our produce across the globe.
“A big focus of our efforts will be on job creation and on growing our food and drink sector to £12.5 billion in value by 2017.
“I’m also very keen to work with the local farming sector in taking forward other key issues such as reform of the CAP, which will have huge implications for our farmers and farming communities, while reform of the Common Fisheries Policy will also be high on the Government’s agenda, including pushing Europe to allow the sector to tackle wasteful discards of fish.”