The outlook for agriculture once the UK leaves Europe was debated at the Oxford Farming Conference’s first event in Scotland at the Royal Highland Show.
The debate session, which was organised with support from law firm Brodies, examined the motion ‘This house believes UK agriculture will thrive outwith the European Union’.
A panel of five speakers were asked to share their views on the issue and to answer questions from the audience.
Opening the session, NFUS president Andrew McCornick said: “We have to thrive outside the EU because it’s something that’s in coming in our direction. We are not going to pick our farms up and pick our crofts up and move them away. We have to change our mindset.”
He called on all farmers and crofters to get a copy of the union’s discussion document, Change – A New Agricultural Policy for Scotland Post-Brexit, and present its findings to politicians from all parties. He said it highlighted the importance of the sector to the rural economy and why it needed continued support in future.
Next up, Perthshire beef and sheep farmer Jim Fairlie said there was scope for the farming industry to piggy back on the success of the Scotch Whisky industry.
However he sounded a warning over the current political framework and said he did not trust the Westminster Government.
He said: “Our biggest challenge is making sure we are still looked after post-Brexit.”
The chief executive of LEAF, which organises Open Farm Sunday, Caroline Drummond said: “I believe we will thrive because we have to.”
She said: “There is a great opportunity to co-construct with stakeholders a rural package that creates a much more united approach. Creating a new agricultural policy has to be about enabling and adding value.”
Former Lib Dem MEP and P&J Farming columnist George Lyon said UK agriculture would thrive because farmers had a “tremendous ability to adapt, restructure and innovate”.
He saidf farmers should expect a transitional arrangement for subsidies and regulations until new deals are agreed and said the prospect of a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland should be the impetus for a good trade deal to be struck between the UK and Europe.
Lastly, Yorkshire vegetable and potato grower Guy Poskitt said: “Farmers are thrivers so we have to survive.”
He said ensuring access to non-UK labour was key to the success of the fruit and vegetable sectors.
“There is not enough UK labour to do the work I need to do,” he added.