Union meets new cabinet secretary for rural economy

NFU Scotland has met with Fergus Ewing MSP, the newly appointed Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity at Holyrood this morning (Wednesday, 25 May).

Speaking after the meeting, NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie said: “This was a positive opening meeting and there is a clear understanding that farms exist primarily to produce food. We look forward to working with him on behalf of farmers and crofters and today was an opportunity to reset the agenda in a way that will take forward farming and crofting in Scotland.

“His appointment comes at a hugely challenging time for the industry. Volatile markets across every sector mean that we have seen farm incomes fall three years in a row and the huge problems encountered by Scottish Government in delivering new CAP support created massive problems for Scotland’s rural economy.

“Given last week’s damning report from Audit Scotland into the CAP IT delivery programme, sorting out the mess was always going to be top of the agenda today.

“There is much unfinished business to be done. We want outstanding support payments delivered to farmers and crofters before the payment window closes in June. And we are looking to the Cabinet Secretary and his team to ensure we learn from the mistakes that have been made so that they are not repeated. It is important that a clear timetable for future support payment delivery is set and adhered to.

“We want Scottish farmers and crofters to be competitive in a very volatile market environment. The income pressures on Scottish farming businesses are intense, regardless of what sector they are operating in.

“Actions and decisions taken by Scottish Government from now on should be judged on how they will impact on the competitiveness of farmers. Past gold plating introduced by Scottish Government needs to be addressed and we believe that the Cabinet Secretary will keenly consider the business impact of decisions.

“With the Scottish food and drink strategy a success story for our economy, and a ‘Good Food Nation’ Bill part of the SNP manifesto, the Union will work with the Cabinet Secretary on continuing to build on this success and to connect farmers and crofters with the food and drink industry but with a greater emphasis on securing fairer supply chains and a fair share for all of the risk and rewards.

“Farmers currently carry the bulk of the risk involved in producing food and drink yet, as falling farm incomes show, they are struggling to receive a fair share of the current rewards being generated by this prospering sector. It is important that, at this time of uncertainty and volatility in the agricultural industry, we have strong voices within Scottish Government that look to ensure that food and drink sector success connects back to the farm gate.”

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