Appreciate us or lose us

Martin Kennedy on Lurgan Farm.

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Appreciate us or lose us. That’s the message from NFUS vice-president Martin Kennedy as he uses his blog to highlight the uphill battle Scotland’s farmers and crofters are facing trying to continue to provide a public good while being met with constant pressure.

It has been said more than once that if you can’t feed your country, you don’t have one. What we have in Scotland, and the rest of the UK, is the ability to feed ourselves but also a serious inability to look after and support those who produce a high quality product that is taken for granted.

We as an industry also deliver so much in terms of biodiversity, climate change mitigation, environmental enhancement and, as important, deliver a rural economy that is the cornerstone of the biggest industry in Scotland: food and drink.

Farmers and crofters are now at their limits, both in terms of financial implications and, in many, instances physical and mental exhaustion.

We are now at a point where unless there is recognition of the benefits which all agricultural sectors deliver, we will no longer retain the ability to be the main part of the solution when it comes to both the economy and addressing climate change.

We as a Scottish union, alongside other unions in the UK, are now sick of being attacked and undermined by those who seem to have a hidden agenda designed to put agriculture and all it provides out of business.

There are so many seriously uninformed people who are determined to jump on a bandwagon which will eventually disappear into the abyss, but in the meantime has the ability to do irreparable damage.

Most sectors are suffering at the moment, and the one probably taking the biggest hit is the beef sector. In many cases, around £200 is being lost on every beast sold. This is unsustainable and threatens the whole infrastructure of the beef sector, including the suckler cows which have already declined by 25 per cent in the past 10 years.

This brings with it a real imbalance. Where cows go off, if they’re to be replaced it is likely to be with ewes, and productive ones at that, which then threatens the viability of the an already struggling sheep sector, and that’s before the implications of tariffs under a no deal Brexit scenario.

It’s all very well moaning if you don’t have the answers – we can all do that – it’s ‘where do we go from here’?

The first thing we must do is, at every opportunity, tell politicians of every party to take a real good look at themselves. The mess we are in can be attributed to their inability to agree a process that safeguards the only industry that has the ability to feed them and protect our environment.

The second thing that must be done immediately is stop substandard products coming in from outside the UK through the side door and being marketed as a UK product.

The third demand is that meaningful understandable country of origin labelling standardised across the UK is in place as soon as possible.

This isn’t rocket science, it’s simple measures that would shine the spotlight on those using substandard products for profiteering at the expense of an industry that’s proud of its standards. These people should hang their heads in shame.

NFU Scotland has never had so much political engagement in its history than has taken place over the past few years, and I can assure you this engagement will only increase until we get the results necessary to get our industry into sustainable profitability.

We elect our politicians to represent us, not themselves. It’s incumbent on them to make the right decisions based on fact, not fiction created by ill-informed lobbyists with agendas.

There is a great opportunity to turn this uncertainty into something positive, but it needs to happen now or we risk losing what we have.