Galloway and West Dumfries MSP Finlay Carson has backed a vision for the future of farming which has been laid out by the Scottish Conservatives in a parliamentary debate.
The Scottish Conservative and Unionist MSP says the party’s plans for a new approach to Scottish farming, as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union will provide practical and simple support to farmers.
Mr Carson says that is in stark contrast to the SNP who have continued to fail to set out any future plans for farmers and crofters.
The Scottish Conservative approach to farming will focus on productivity, regional differentiation, environmental protection, research, education and securing the future of farming careers.
In particular, the party will highlight need for a better support system than the outdated Common Agricultural Policy as well as stressing the need not to create any friction within the UK internal market.
Commenting Finlay Carson MSP said: “Farmers across Galloway and West Dumfries deserve to know a vision as to what the future will entail for them in a post Brexit world.
“The Scottish Conservative approach will see a system put in place that meets their needs far more appropriately than the outdated Common Agricultural Policy and provide simple and practical support.
“This is in stark contrast to the SNP who have completely failed to lay out a vision for our farmers and instead are preoccupied with using Brexit to further their obsession with independence, risking the hugely important internal UK market.
“Our rural communities deserve to have an ambitious level of support which sustains the economy for the long-term.
“The approach to the future of farming from the Scottish Conservatives outlines practical support, which details a serious vision in tackling the main challenges faced by our farmers on a daily basis and I am pleased to show my support for it.”
The full Scottish Conservative document is attached here -
A New Approach to Scottish Farming
It is generally agreed that the Common Agricultural Policy is not fit for purpose, and the great opportunity post-Brexit is the ability to design and implement a new system of support much better suited to the needs of Scottish agriculture. The SNP Government needs to be much more proactive in driving this change
Our starting point is that any new support system must not create friction with our own UK internal market, which is by far our biggest market, and upon which so many farming incomes depend. In addition, we seek the following outcomes:
We believe that food production must be at the heart of future farming policy. We must always recognise that farmers’ primary aim is to produce the high-quality food that our consumers need.
We agree that efficient food production must be at the forefront of any new agricultural policy, and should also be built upon strong environmental and animal welfare standards, which must remain at the core of farming business.
If we are to double the value of the food and drink sector to £30 billion by 2030 in line with Scotland’s food and drink strategy, any support system needs to be targeted at farmers supplying this high-quality food.
We also believe that farmers need to get a fairer return of the amount consumers spend on food. To do this, we would work with the UK Government to widen and strengthen the powers of the Groceries Code Adjudicator.
The food supply chain must be fair, with risk and reward shared equally amongst the members of that chain.
We would work with the UK Government to ensure that better and clearer food labelling helps build brands and delivers better prices.
Productivity underpins food production. In 2018, total income from farming fell by 8 per cent, as productivity dropped for the third year in a row. Any future support system must make Scottish agriculture more productive and more efficient.
Increased productivity and efficiency means embracing new technologies. New technologies like GPS targeted input systems for arable farms, livestock handling systems, and weighing systems, will all help smarter and more efficient farming.
Financial support should be provided to farmers that allows for investment in these technologies, and others.
- Regional differentiation
Scottish agriculture has unique circumstances, with 85 per cent of land classed as less favoured area, compared to just 15 per cent in England.
These unique circumstances faced by farms in Scotland must be acknowledged and funding maintained to help overcome the difficulties posed by remoteness, harsh climate and poor soil quality.
Support should be delivered through a menu of targeted options, tailored to regional and sectoral needs.
We recognise the importance of ‘less favoured areas support schemes’ (LFASS) and agree that they should be retained, and built upon to ensure that support is targeted appropriately, especially to upland livestock farmers and crofters, while at the same time acknowledging that even outside LFA, land conditions and lack of profitability can be can be a huge challenge for many farmers.
There should be a continuation of basic payments in some instances, particularly for livestock farmers. We agree with NFUS that a baseline should be provided so that businesses are supported and incentivised.
- Environmental Protection
We recognise that efficient farming and the protection of the natural environment go hand in hand. Farmers and crofters have long proved to be adept at environmental stewardship of our countryside. We believe that we need to build natural capital into our approach towards land use so we develop a sustainable future for our countryside.
We agree with NFUS that the financial stability component of funding must be complemented by a suite of environmental measures which offer real, practical choices to every farm and croft.
Payments should be made for farmers providing environmental outcomes which all farms can buy into simply, including: clean water, flood management, tree planting, peatland restoration works, and biodiversity protection.
Other initiatives could include funding for farm carbon audits, with funding provided on an annual basis for the volume of carbon sequestered.
We agree that new environmental measures should seek to deliver primarily for climate change, water quality and biodiversity, but should also embrace habitats, air quality and landscape character, as well as natural flood management, cultural heritage and public access and education
Any environmental measures should be simple to apply for, implement and measure.
Any new support system must be easier to access, simpler to administer, and have a fairer system of dealing with genuine mistakes. There must be a clear distinction between minor and major non-compliance with proportionate penalties.
We must aim to achieve:
- reduced bureaucracy, and having fewer but better targeted inspections
- protecting the environment by incentivising rural businesses
- by simplifying administration so that IT is a solution, not a hindrance, to the farming community
We must get away from the situation where genuine, minor mistakes can result in huge and unfair financial penalties.
- Research and securing the future of farming careers
We agree that Scottish farming must be more visible as a career option and must attract more young people and new entrants. It is vital that a new generation see farming and crofting as viable careers. It is therefore imperative that funding be provided for new entrant farmers, and to help potential farmers who simply want to get started. At the same time, we continue to promote more flexible working in the sector at a time when the nature of work is changing and many farmers and crofters juggle a variety of different tasks and enterprises at the same time.
Similarly, it will be important to help some plan their exit from farming, and allow them to do so with dignity. We believe one way this could be done would be through a retirement and land transfer scheme. We are concerned about the impact of legislation on farmers’ willingness and ability to transfer or release land to new entrant farmers.
We agree future agricultural profitability depends on investment in research, development, and innovation. We can improve productivity with the development of new practices and technologies.
To that end, it’s right that best practice for schools teaching Rural Skills Level 4 and vocational training should be shared more widely. STEM subjects should also be promoted to allow farmers to be better equipped for environmental strategies.
We recognise that advisory services are a key tool in equipping farmers and crofters with the skills, training and knowledge to improve productivity, and support a rural network to raise awareness, increase coordination, and provide a link with innovation.
We also believe the monitor farm network is a useful tool to spread best practice and as such should continue to be funded.