It was another hard listen for NFU Scotland members and farmers at the union’s autumn conference in Dunfermline this week when Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon gave very little away on future farm policy.
While the audience heard Ms Gougeon discuss the impacts of sea eagles, Avian Flu, uncontrolled deer numbers and increased geese populations, there was still no reveal of the ”nitty gritty” detail the industry continues to wait for.
They were however given some ”assurances” on what farmers can expect from 2025 onwards, with the Cabinet Secretary stating that by the union’s AGM in February, she will set out the envelopes for Tier 1 and Tier 2 farm payments.
She also told the audience that there were would be no ”cliff edge” between the current system and moving into the Tier 1 and 2 payments.
“Direct payments will continue in Tier 1 and Tier 2,” said Ms Gougeon.
Tier 1 and Tier 2 farm payments to be set out by union’s AGM in February.
“The envelope in Tiers 1 and 2 will take up by the far the majority of our available funding but people will need to do more including in Tier 1 in return for these payments.
“We will be looking to apply funds to where they are most needed, to deliver on the government’s vision to have a support framework that delivers high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and nature restoration.
“Westminster might be removing direct payments for active farming and food production but the SNP Government in Scotland never will.”
Martin Kennedy, NFUS president said: “I understand the frustration that is growing amongst farmers and crofters desperate to know what that future policy will look like. Many people ask us what is coming down the track. As farmers and crofters, we know we are going to be asked to do more but the details are only just emerging.
“That is the very reason we remain engaged with government, to make sure we influence the decisions being made and that we avoid a cliff edge situation when we move to a new agricultural policy.
“We often talk about our industry’s ability to adapt, but it shouldn’t only be farmers and crofters that adapt to the current situation. Scottish Government must adapt and listen to those who know, through generations of experience, how our rural communities, landscape and environment ticks.”
‘Rushing out the room is not helping anybody including yourself’ said one NFUS member.
The session was then opened up to the floor but many of the gruelling questions for Ms Gougeon were left unanswered because she had to depart fairly quickly to attend parliament.
One person in the audience said: “It’s a great shame that the Cabinet Secretary can’t manage to spend more of her time with the industry that she is supposed to be representing. Rushing out the room when you have plenty of questions to be asked is not helping anybody here including yourself.”