Farmer Focus: ‘Hard Brexit’ is the only viable option

After 10 NFU Scotland hustings meetings in nine days, I’m not sure if I have travel or altitude sickness or whether it’s just nerves.

All I know is that it will take a few days to recover and refocus on being a farmer again.

The diversity of Scotland’s landscape over short distances, especially in Aberdeenshire, is remarkable.

While travelling, it seemed as if I was in the arable basin one minute and on the Cairn O’Mount at 455m above sea level the next.

It was a privilege to meet so many farmers from all sectors. All of them were relatively positive about the future, but did of course have major concerns about future support and Brexit.

I was refreshed, though, by how many agreed with me on how we need the market to give us a realistic return for our labour.

I believe the next round of support needs to be clear on two points:

1. Environmental payments Identify what good things farmers already do for their surrounding landscape and, in a joint effort with other relevant stakeholders, assess where we can improve this further through proactive discussion, instead of beating us with a stick.

2. Dealing with volatility We need support in setting up systems in which we can sell produce using futures or a forward pricing mechanisms. We also need an insurance protection scheme (to deal with volatility) and more funding must be given to use for marketing, so we can better sell our products in our own country and abroad.

As farmers, I think we all feel the single farm payment has become something to attach regulation and cross-compliance to.

A “hard” Brexit looks to me like the only option when you look into all the complexities of trade agreements.

For example, if the EU had done a deal with a South American country for 15,000t of tariff-free beef, we would still need to accept our share of this when we separate. So the quicker we get on with it, the better.

Gary Mitchell milks 800 cows, with heifers reared on a local farm. Gary zero grazes 80ha of the 195ha he owns. He is regional board chairman for NFU Scotland.