Farmer Focus: London terror attack scuppers Brexit meeting

As I write this, I am reflecting on a nine-hour return trip to London where our intended meeting was cancelled because of the horrific incident that you are all well aware happened on 22 March.

A sad day for London and the victims. It was a high-level meeting NFU Scotland (NFUS) had organised with our secretary of state David Mundell to meet rural affairs minster Andrea Leadsom and others about Brexit.  

See also: Read more from our Livestock Farmer Focus writers

Article 50 will be triggered on 29 March and all of sudden Brexit is a reality. This will affect every business in the UK, especially agriculture, and 2019 will approach very quickly.

My new role as vice-president of NFUS has been a great eye-opener to our diverse country. I have travelled 2,000 miles and seen lots.

I’m determined that we get the right deal for Scotland. I like to use the word equality.

I firmly believe every farmer/new entrant should have the opportunity to farm and financial support should be targeted to a farm’s scale of disadvantage.

However, this can only work if we have a market that pays sustainable prices. If our arable land (15% of Scotland) can’t make money without support, how can we be sustainable in the long term?

Caring for birds

Last week I had opportunity to speak at an RSPB fringe meeting at the SNP conference in Aberdeen. I made it clear farmers care about our environment, but we don’t need to be beaten with a stick to take care of it.

I would like to see all these organisations put more effort into influencing their members on what responsible food purchasing means and the difference it could make to our industry. Farmers would be bought in by seeing the overall good.

The question was asked whether it is right for the RSPB to claim such a large support payment when the support was designed for food producers.

It seems a long time ago now, but I enjoyed my trip down south to the NFU conference, where I got fired up by a seminar.

Beef hormone anger

An American speaker from the US Department of Agriculture was questioned on hormones in beef. I expected him to say they could provide hormone-free beef for our market, but he said he would rather the UK consumer could make their own choice.

I have no words on how angry this makes me. Can we allow UK consumers to make the decision, considering they spend less than 15 seconds reading any label in a supermarket?

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