20 November 2001
No exodus from Scots farming
By Shelley Wright, Scotland correspondent
DESPITE pundits predictions, foot-and-mouth disease will not lead to a mass exodus of farmers from the industry in Scotland, claims a rural business expert.
A recent survey of farmers who lost stock found that none had decided to leave farming, said Peter Cook, head of Scottish Agricultural College rural business unit.
In the poll of producers in Dumfries and Galloway, 83% said they would definitely continue, with the remaining 17% still unsure.
With compensation in your pocket it may be difficult to contemplate leaving the industry, Mr Cook told the recent SAC Outlook conference in Edinburgh.
But, as other options become clearer, and individuals are faced with substantial restocking costs, some may reconsider, he admitted.
However, there was unlikely to be an exodus, predicted Mr Cook.
Exits from the industry will follow the normal trend which has seen the number of occupiers on main holdings in Scotland fall by around 1350 in the past 10 years.
Although the determination to continue farming showed a remarkable resilience and sense of hope in the industry, the survey findings also had a downside.
The negative part is that many people said they would carry on simply because they had no other option, said Mr Cook.
He challenged the conventional wisdom which suggests that, as a result of foot and mouth and years of low incomes, farming will undergo root and branch reform.
Conventional wisdom suggests that some hill areas will never be restocked and that those which are will farm less intensively, said Mr Cook.
But, what had to be remembered, he pointed out, was that not all businesses were in dire straits.
Even if incomes were poor, balance sheets were still strong in many cases. Over a third of Scottish farms have no debt at all.