Ballot being put in voting box© Rex

The widest NFU Scotland leadership election in years will culminate in a vote at the union’s annual meeting in St Andrews on 10 February, when six candidates will compete for the three places at the top table.

A series of 10 hustings took place this month at venues from the Borders to Orkney and Shetland. They were well attended and the jury is still out on the front runners.

Here we report on the vital statistics of the six candidates, reveal their priorities in their own words, and assess their chances of success.

 

Andrew Moir

Andrew Moir

Positions going for: President and vice-president

Age: 58

Area farmed: 263ha

Tenure type: Contract farmer

Experience: Combinable crops chairman, NFUS

In five words: Experienced, committed, loyal, passionate, hungry

My priorities

I care passionately about Scottish farming and will do my utmost to ensure that the voices of Scotland’s farmers are heard.

As current combinable crop chairman I have experience of policy formulation, political lobbying and member representation. The recent overturning of the need to have two protein crops is an example of the effectiveness of reasoned lobbying.

Having raised beef cattle all my life and spent nearly 30 years milking cows, I understand the challenges facing our livestock sector. I am determined that our younger generation is encouraged to become more involved.

Land reform, tenancy issues, plant protection products, commodity prices, simplification of greening – all examples from the list of issues I will get my teeth into on your behalf.

I know “the corridors of power” in Holyrood, Westminster and Brussels, and as chairman of AgriScot and Ringlink I have shown I can lead a team and deliver for our industry.

Farmers Weekly tip: Political and media savvy and a force to be reckoned with. A strong candidate for president.

 

Rob Livesey

Rob Livesey

Positions going for: President and vice-president

Age: 53

Area farmed: 300ha

Tenure type: Tenanted, seasonal grazing, owned

Experience: Two years as vice-president and four years as NFUS livestock committee chairman

In five words: Determined, passionate, confident, honest, uncomplicated

My priorities

  • Lead Scottish agriculture through the huge changes we will see in the next two years, especially in the way agriculture is supported. Manage the change from historic to area payments with a much-reduced budget.
  • The development of our Pillar 2 competitive support schemes will become more visible in the coming year and we need to keep this on track.
  • The review of greening measures this year, to look to measures that are fit for purpose and more attuned to Scottish agriculture.
  • The general election means we must persuade all parties of the need for a full review of the internal convergence monies to be carried out.
  • Future access to as many markets as possible, especially within Europe, will be of paramount importance as we move support away from production to area.

Farmers Weekly tip: He hasn’t been a high-profile vice-president so unlikely to get the top job, although there’s a strong chance that he will secure another year as vice-president.

 

Andrew McCornick

Andrew McCornick

Position going for: Vice-president

Age: 60

Area farmed: 230ha unit with suckler cows and breeding sheep

Tenure: Part-owned and part-tenanted

Experience: Chairman of board of Dumfries & Galloway NFUS region, member of LFA Committee and on the national board of NFUS

In five words: Experienced, “can do” team player

My priorities

  • We need the best and fairest delivery of the CAP package on time.
  • We need to engage with processors and retailers to maximise market returns, current priorities being milk and potatoes.
  • Land reform is a big issue, membership needs represented at the highest level to safeguard their businesses.
  • Agriculture Holdings Review will have to make land available for the next generation of farmers, meaning sensible legislation that works for landowners and tenants.
  • LFASS/ANC – next reform on the horizon needs to be right for the vulnerable units depending on it.
  • Greening and equivalence issues need simplified and made to match Scotland.
  • We have to fight for a better convergence deal to boost Scotland’s CAP budget.
  • Listening to members and lobbying for the best outcomes for all sectors.
  • Project my optimism into a great industry that delivers food, environmental and scenic benefits.

Farmers Weekly tip: Not well known outside of his region. Probably a longshot.

 

Allan Bowie

Allan Bowie

Position going for: President

Age: 54

Area farmed: 343ha

Tenure type: Contract farming

Experience: Five years as vice-president and a lifetime of farming

In five words: Pragmatic, assiduous, fair, open-minded

My priorities

I would keep reminding governments and consumers why farming and food production matters. With increased volatility in agricultural markets this is not something we can do on our own; strong collective support with other UK and EU unions and stronger relationships with Westminster and Brussels will be paramount.

Stronger engagement with others in our food supply chain to thrash out a better understanding of margins and the true cost of food is another priority.

CAP implementation in Scotland, the Agricultural Holdings Bill and a Land Reform Bill will also need close scrutiny.

Stronger processing capacity and marketing is a priority, and in Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink it would be fantastic to see added inward investment, strong demand within the UK and increased exports.

Scottish farming cannot just be a peripheral part of UK farming. NFUS will be an important cog in making sure this does not happen.

Farmers Weekly tip: Highly capable and has put in the spadework. He has made it clear he only wants the top job after five years as vice-president. It’s all or nothing this time.

 

John Millar Smith

John Millar Smith

Position going for: Vice-president

Age: 51

Area farmed: 404ha in Kintyre

Tenure type: 339ha owner & occupier and 60ha seasonal grazing/cutting

Experience: Five years as chairman of NFUS legal and technical committee and worked with the remuneration committee and finance committees

In five words: Enthusiastic, fair, determined, professional, responsible

My priorities

  • Single farm payment must be delivered, at least in part, by December.
  • Fair compensation must be delivered to the sectors hit adversely by the Russian trade ban.
  • Improved proposals are needed for the tenanted and let land sector, with provision for new entrants on publicly owned land.
  • We must also have a taxation system that allows succession to happen without farms and businesses having to be split up.
  • A Land Reform Bill is required that recognises efficient, modern-scale farming and the hardworking farming families that have helped to bring Scottish agriculture to the level of efficiency that it has.
  • We have to engage fully with the membership and further promote the professional and credible activities of NFUS.

Farmers Weekly tip: Vociferous at council meetings and a committed fighter. May attract considerable support from members in the Highlands and Islands.

 

Kelvin Pate

Kelvin Pate

Position going for: Vice-president

Age: 47

Area farmed: 234ha – 800 ewes, 60 cows and 200 dairy bulls, 20ha barley

Tenure type: 141ha owned, 93ha rented

Experience: Two years livestock committee chairman, Peebles monitor farm chairman, and helped initiate apprenticeship scheme with Lantra and QMS

In five words: Energetic, imaginative, attentive, ambitious, open-minded

My priorities

I first joined East Lothian NFUS committee in 2005 and have seen how a union should work, gathering thoughts and ideas and taking them forward. I want to shape the future of the food chain; there are many links but it is only as strong as the weakest.

We need a united voice, both to listen to and inform other organisations of the impact of future legislation and develop new markets. I get frustrated when legislation is created that benefits no one. I am a good listener and have the imagination to inform and think of better ways to improve the sustainability of the food chain and the environment.

Farmers are practical people regardless of what country they live in, but simplification is a word that seems to have been lost in translation throughout Europe. I hope it is something that I can help reinvent.

Farmers Weekly tip: He’s a sound practitioner and has been on the NFUS scene for some time. Stands a strong chance of joining Livesey as vice-president.