Farming policies need to be simplified and made clearer if farmers are going to be allowed to farm and produce food, NFU Scotland has said.
Jonnie Hall, NFUS head of rural policy, said policymakers, advisors and researchers needed to work together to co-ordinate the “plethora of policies” being directed at the industry.
Speaking at the SAC/SEPA Biennial Conference in Edinburgh on Thursday (1 April), Mr Hall said farmers were being bogged down by policy demands, making it harder for them to “get on with the job” of producing food.
He said decisions on farms were often driven by the need to meet policy rather than responding to market signals.
“If we want this nation’s farmers to provide a safe, local supply of food, preserve our countryside, support local communities and underpin associated industries then we need a more co-ordinated policy framework that allows that to happen rather than tie it up in knots,” he told delegates.
Bureacracy related to things like single farm payments, cross compliance and LFA support, as well as demands to protect the environment and produce food, put “umpteen expectations” on farmers, many of where were conflicting.
“There is such a raft of policy drivers being directed towards the industry at this time that it is almost impossible for any individual farmer to know exactly what is being asked of them,” he said.
“We have limited resources at the disposal of Scottish Agriculture plc and we need to recognise that farmers still have to make a living from farming and producing food. “Under the current weight of policy expectation, something has got to give.”
Mr Hall said the challenge for policymakers was to simplify regulations so farmers understood what was expected of them.
Where there was conflict, there had to be recognition that a trade-off or compromise had to be reached.
“There is an urgent need for policymakers to align the current plethora of policies in a more co-ordinated manner in the knowledge that if we get the policy framework right, then farmers will respond to it and deliver on their part.”