24 July 1998
Spell out farming’s future,
SNFU tells Dewar
By Allan Wright
SCOTTISH NFU officials have challenged the Government to state, in simple language, its vision for the future of Scottish agriculture.
The union also plans to ask Secretary of State, Donald Dewar, to open a major conference on the future of rural Scotland in November.
SNFU president George Lyon told a union council meeting on Wednesday that next years general election in Scotland offered the industry an extra opportunity to put before all politicians the importance of the rural vote.
“We are talking about 150,000 jobs and 10% of Scottish output. The Government may be able to ignore the rural voice in England, but it cannot afford such a move in Scotland,” he said.
“It is not unreasonable for us to ask the politicians in charge of our industry to lay out their vision for the future. We have a right to know if that vision for the rural economy includes agriculture.”
Mr Lyon said he now accepted there would be no currency compensation for the arable and dairy sectors and he agreed to the establishment of a new union committee on environment and land use.
“It is certain that more and more of remaining support for agriculture, especially in the less favoured areas, will come with environmental strings attached, and it will be important to have a specialist committee dealing with agri-environmental measures in the forthcoming CAP reform.”
The final shape of Agenda 2000 proposals caused him the deepest concern. “We have a Government with a huge majority, little knowledge of our industry, and urban bias. If the Government gets Agenda 2000 wrong, the current crisis will look like a picnic compared with what we might have to face,” he said.
He particularly feared that national envelopes of money might not be spent on agriculture. “There are many rural agencies and local authorities out there who would like to get a share of the CAP budget,” he said.
Commenting on the domestic milk situation, union vice-president, Peter Chapman, said the failure of Milk Marque to attract bids from the major buyers in its recent selling round might prove good news for the industry.
“The result would show the Monopolies and Mergers Commission that it is the trade and not Milk Marque which is trying to manipulate the market,” said Mr Chapman, who had earlier said that he had had enough of dairying and was selling the 90 cows and 500,000 litres of quota from his Aberdeenshire farm.
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 24-30 July, 1998