The Scottish Conservatives would work with the UK Government to ensure farmers get a fairer share of the food pound after Brexit, says Shadow Rural Secretary Donald Cameron MSP.
I have just published ‘A New Approach to Scottish Farming’, which sets out the Scottish Conservative vision for a future farming policy for Scotland.
We all agree the Common Agricultural Policy is not fit for purpose, and the great opportunity we now have is the ability to implement a new system of support better suited to the needs of Scottish agriculture.
Obviously efficient food production must be at the heart of future farming policy.
Food production must be built upon strong environmental and animal welfare standards, which must remain at the core of farming business.
Financial support should be provided to allow farmers to embrace new technologies to make Scottish agriculture more productive and efficient.
In addition, farmers should receive 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 and ensure clearer food labelling helps build brands and delivers better prices.
The unique circumstances faced by farms in Scotland must be acknowledged and funding maintained to help overcome difficulties posed by remoteness 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, and believe they should be retained and built upon.
We also believe there should be a continuation of basic payments in some instances, particularly for livestock farmers.
In the same way, future funding should be complemented by a suite of environmental measures which all farms can buy into, implement and measure.
We must also build natural capital into our approach towards land use to ensure a sustainable future for our countryside.
It’s important for all farmers that any new support system must be easier to access, simpler to administer, and have a fairer system of dealing with genuine mistakes.
We must aim to reduce bureaucracy, have fewer but better targeted inspections and simplify administration.
I truly believe that in order to secure the future of Scottish farming, it has to be a more visible as a career option.
It is imperative that funding be provided for new entrants, helping potential farmers who simply want to get started.
Similarly, it will be important to help some plan their exit from farming, and allow them to do so with dignity.
Future agricultural profitability depends on investment in research, development, and innovation and these new practices and technologies will, in turn, improve productivity.
In a similar vein, advisory services are a key tool in equipping farmers and crofters with skills, training and knowledge so funding must continue to the monitor farm network in order to spread best practice.
Importantly, for all of this to succeed any new support system must not create friction with our own UK internal market.
The Scottish Conservatives believe that we must build a dynamic farming sector able to capitalise on the opportunity we now have, to ensure our rural communities thrive in the future.
Donald can be found tweeting at @DAJCameron