NEBRASKA came to Scotland last week, when SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, Paul Wheelhouse, welcomed a delegation from the mid-western US state’s LEAD programme to the Holyrood parliament.
The delegates were all Nebraska residents involved in agriculture production, agribusiness or closely related occupations. The programme is under the direction of the Nebraska Agricultural Leadership Council.
The visitors were in Scotland for a short time after a spell in Ireland to learn more about agriculture practices here and met Mr Wheelhouse in his capacity as parliamentary liaison officer to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead.
“I was delighted to welcome the delegates from Nebraska to Parliament and find out a bit more about the similarities differences between agriculture in Scotland and in the United States,” Mr Wheelhouse said.
“While learning about the prevalent crops, financial status of farming and the fears of US farmers over rising input costs, I was interested to learn that new entrants to farming is as much of an issue for them as it is for us here in Scotland.
“In Nebraska, buoyant markets for corn for bioethanol production have caused land values to become less affordable for new entrants.
“The general consensus was that encouraging young people into the agriculture sector was a challenge, but given Nebraska is the second top-performing farming state in America, the rewards are beginning to appeal to the next generation of young farmers.
“I hope the assessment of this trend being bucked proves to be correct and I hope we can learn from their work to get some of our young people into and retaining them in farming.
“My guests were also interested to learn more about the importance of subsidies available to farmers in Scotland and the representatives from the Farm Credit Services of America, in particular, were keen to find out about the system in place here.
“It was also fascinating to hear that farmers in Nebraska benefit from robust competition between smaller local banks and lenders keen to secure their business.
“Obviously the CAP reform was a hot topic, given the current discussions, and it was clear to me that the world’s farming communities are keeping an eye on what is happening with this.”
Mr Wheelhouse says he hopes his American visitors found their visit to the parliament informative and interesting, adding: “I look forward to harbouring closer links with the US agricultural sectors as I push for a more sustainable future for Scotland’s farmers and our food and drink sector.”