Global threats to food security and the environment make agriculture more important to society now than at any point in the past 50 years, according to NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren.

Addressing farmers and industry representatives at the NFUS’ agm in Dunblane yesterday (Thursday), Mr McLaren said he believed the industry’s “time has come”.

“The resilience of our industry has brought it through its darkest period to the point where it must become the foundation of a core national policy once more.

“This may indeed be a turning point in the thinking of the UK government, as they play catch up with where the Scottish government thinking has been for some time.

“Agriculture is being thrust back to the forefront of politics by global factors which are unstoppable the ramifications of which are already affecting the businesses of each one of us in this room,” said Mr McLaren.

Predicting these factors will only increase in intensity, Mr McLaren said they lay down the greatest challenge farming has faced since the food shortages of the Second World War.

Global population is, he said, growing fast and a rise in affluence is leading to improved and more demanding diets. At the same time, climate change, the sprawl of cities into rural areas and the massive expansion in biofuel production is limiting the amount of land available for farming and food production.

“This all combines to create a perfect storm, presenting Scotland’s farmers with their biggest challenge in 50 years but also their greatest opportunity.

“The Prime Minister this week spoke of food security issues for the first time, an issue the Scottish government has also been engaged in.

“Food policy is set to become one of the most critical government policies, just as it was half a century ago when Europe acted through the CAP to secure food supplies,” Mr McLaren said.

To meet these challenges a new partnership between government, the industry and the supply chain is needed, he added.