Change is not something farmers should fear, but they deserve to be told by politicians what kind of change they should be expecting, say Sarah Allison, Carnwath hill farmer and NFU Scotland next generation vice chair and her father, Alex Allison.
‘They tell me change is inevitable…yet some things never seem to’.
These are the wise words of poet Ranata Suzuki, and they are words which also apply to both the current stage of the Brexit negotiations and the agricultural industry over the years.
In our household, we accepted the fact a long time ago that there would be changes ahead.
A few weeks ago, on a visit to my granny, I came across some scrapbooks she had kept, with various newspaper cuttings from when dad was involved with the NFUS as a regional chairman 20 years ago.
In one article, dad was giving an interview on upcoming change to the agricultural industry.
He said: “Politicians are urged to show their hand and give producers a stronger lead. They are continually saying we should let the markets decide, and it is not their job to tell the farming industry what to do.
“But one of the main difficulties we face as farmers at the moment is we do not have sufficient information on which to make proper business decisions.
“Agriculture is a managed economy and I feel the Government, as the dealer, is trying to make sure it doesn’t let us see all of the cards.
“They need to tell us if we are really wanted, they need to tell us if the country is going to be looking for home grown food in the future; and they have to tell us under what criteria they want that food produced.
“Until we get answers to these questions, and clear policy signals from Government, farmers will remain deeply concerned about their prospects, especially in Scotland’s hills and uplands.”
Back then, it was Agenda 2000 stimulating the need for change. Today, its Brexit.
Change therefore is not something new to us as farmers. However, in order to change, we need to have a vision – a collective vision, shared by both our Governments, of where we are heading and what is expected of us.
Without knowing this final destination, we cannot make the best use of a transition period. The two are inextricably linked, and details on both are very thin on the ground just now.
Dad’s words 20 years ago could have been written yesterday, which brings me back to my original quote; that some things never change, and that a lack of political leadership and clear direction have always been present any time agriculture has faced a period of change.
So, with all that said, we took the opportunity a few weeks ago to hear from touring Kiwi farmer Doug Avery on how he dealt with change – in his case, an eight-year drought and mental health challenges.
Doug explained that individual attitude and having a positive, healthy mindset can help steer the impact of change in a positive direction for farming businesses – messages which were very timely as we consider the period of change we are entering into.
Change should not always be feared, but knowing what the change is would be a good start.
Sarah can be found tweeting at @ruralsarah