History Must Show We Made The Right Decisions Says NFU President

Not many industries can claim they are the oldest industry in the world, in fact there’s only one – farming and food production. For millennia mankind has in one form or another foraged, killed, and grown food to survive. Long before ‘essentials’ such as electricity, central heating, planes, trains and automobiles were even dreamt about, people only had one worry and that was how they were going to feed themselves and their families.

Fast forward to modern day society and food, to a large degree has become a product that has lost all respect for what it delivers in terms of health, economic output and environmental delivery. This is not only extremely sad but it’s also extremely dangerous. Unless we change our views now, at a time when we can make a difference, on how we value the one thing we cannot do without then in the not too distant future history will tell us we got it completely wrong.

Here in Scotland future policy is still not defined. I completely agree that the pace of the work to show the direction of travel is glacial and the industry is desperate to know what is happening.

As co-chair of the ARIOB (the group charged with defining a way forward) I take part of the responsibility for this slow pace, however let’s not forget that for 50 years our own governments have been steered by the EU and virtually told what to do. Now they’re on their own, that means that they have to design, implement and deliver policy for the first time in two generations. This is why the industry must be at the heart of the discussions because without us not only will unintended consequences not be realised, but there won’t be a cat in hell’s chance of government reaching their targets on wider environmental goals. So, to me going slow in the right direction is far more important than rushing things through for the sake of getting something out there. That said, although we have an input into decisions being made, ultimately it will be Government that will make any final decisions before implementing them.

The responsibility and requirement in Scotland must be to ensure farmers and crofters are enabled (through a new approach to support that recognises and rewards agricultural activity and good practice) to deliver on high quality food production first and foremost and, as a result, deliver on the climate and biodiversity challenges we face – and which only active farming and crofting can address whilst also underpinning rural communities and a multitude of upstream and downstream businesses and jobs. This approach may be at odds with some other parts of the UK but it focuses on a long term vision for a profitable, secure and sustainable future for Scottish agriculture and is one that others could learn from.

Let’s hope that history will show from a Scottish perspective we made the right decisions and recognised food production and all it delivers as being the number one priority, which in turn delivered on the wider outcomes we tried to achieve.

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