SNFU regeneration day?
TODAY, Fri, Mar 6, could be remembered by farmers as the day the Scottish NFU put its house in order. It could also be the day a government minister gave a meaningful commitment to the future of the agricultural industry.
The stage is set in Aberdeen for an eventful annual meeting of the Scottish NFU. Until yesterday the duties of union president have been shared by George Lyon and Stewart Whiteford who have worked together since the resignation of president Sandy Mole and chief executive Tom Brady in December.
A single leader and two vice-presidents will be elected at todays meeting. Many members will be looking for improved communication and a top team which will attend regularly area meetings throughout the country.
The meeting will be attended by farm minister Lord Sewel following a round of farm visits in the area.
Lord Sewel claims a solid framework is being put in place to safeguard the future of farming. To support that view, he points to continued low inflation, a Food Standards Agency designed to restore consumer confidence, unceasing pressure to lift the beef export ban, a determination to introduce food labelling and cash aid for compelling cases.
Lord Sewels definition of compelling differs from that of the union. But the dialogue is less confrontational than it was. Nevertheless, Lord Sewel still warns of the high level of public support for agriculture which accounted for 27% of total farm receipts last year in Scotland. The next round of world trade talks will force major changes in the level and type of subsidy, says Lord Sewel.
CAP reform will increase support levels in the run up to the next World Trade Organisation trade talks. Meanwhile we must prepare for a less subsidised future, he adds.
Lord Sewel (left) at the sharp end of farm diversification. Pictured with him in the deer unit at Barony College, Dumfries, is Russell Marchant.