There is constant discussion in Scotland about the future of our single farm payment. Like the rest of the UK, there are bound to be changes post-2013.
But there is considerable angst as to how we in Scotland will distribute the support among the sectors, whatever the eventual size of the pot.
The existing system was based on the activity of farmers in the reference periods of 2000 until 2002. It has been severely criticised because some people are receiving the payment even though they are no longer farming. Although understandable, this should not be a reason for changing a relatively simple system that works in many cases.
The overriding issue for Scotland, on which we should concentrate, is to ensure that the support remains close to the current £500m – despite a surprising Lloyds TSB survey that suggested 50% of arable farmers made a profit without SFP. One swallow does not make a summer, and since Scotland has no representation at the European table, anybody thinking we don’t need support in Brussels is blatantly wrong.
NFUS members are shortly due to elect a new president. It will be a challenge for the successful candidate to persuade members, politicians and the general public that a new system is fair and equitable to all. Convincing the public that farming support has a direct relationship to the price they pay at the tills for food is never easy. Congratulations to whoever wins the election.
We have two excellent candidates, Fife farmer Allan Bowie and Border producer Nigel Miller, both current NFUS vice-presidents. Either candidate would be excellent, albeit different, champions for our industry, like our retiring president Jim McLaren, an exemplar who will be taking over the top job at Quality Meat Scotland. I wish him well.
Arable farmer Focus: Neil Thomson