North-east farmers have given union leaders the thumbs up to lobby Holyrood and Westminster with their detailed vision for a new Scottish agricultural policy.
NFUS president Martin Kennedy outlined the blueprint the union believes could form the basis of a new scheme which is expected to come into force in 2025 when he spoke to members at roadshow meetings in Perth and Inverurie .
The policy, which was first mooted last year, includes a proposal for support for active farmers and crofters to be “re-coupled” with area-based payments to ensure the industry retains a critical mass and puts food production “front and centre” ahead of all other priorities.
The document envisages three tiers of support.
The first is an underpinning “stability” payment which would be worth 50% of income, with other support split between “conditionality” – non-competitive payments for measures taken to tackle climate change, biodiversity and efficiency, for instance – and. thirdly. “additionality” payments which would be competitive for those who wanted to go “above and beyond” into projects such as peatland restoration or forestry.
However, while the union may have the full backing of the farmers who have attended the Thainstone meeting, farmers at the Perth event expressed concern that the government might not agree to the proposals and no alternative plan has been forthcoming.
Even if the union’s proposal wins a mandate from members, NFUS will still need to convince the Scottish Government and persuade Westminster to pay for it.
Addressing farmers at Thainstone, Mr Kennedy said the union was determined Scottish producers would not be subjected to the “car crash” policy agreed south of the border, and while the Scottish Government has committed to 50% of total support to Scottish farming going in direct payments in future, he admitted he was having difficulty getting Treasury officials to understand the different approaches the devolved governments are taking.
“This is a defining moment for Scottish agriculture,” he said.
“We must use all our influence now, in the lead up to the Scottish Government’s Agriculture Bill in 2023.
“We won’t get everything we want, we know that, but unless we’re trying to steer it , it’ll be an even greater challenge.”
More than 100 farmers attended the Perth meeting. The region’s chair, Caroline Miller, said: “There was broadly support and recognition that the union has done a lot of work, but frustration and concern from members that the government is not being equally proactive.”