Young Scottish farmers remain positive about their future after Brexit and are keen for the Government to support them in new ways, says Mike Rumbles, MSP for the North East of Scotland.
Last week, I met representatives of the NFUS’ Next Generation Committee of young farmers, here in the Scottish Parliament.
Brexit is a huge issue for anyone hoping to make a life in our agricultural sector.
Changing markets and a potential cut to the amount of funding allocated for farming support will reshape the way we make use of our land in the years to come.
But I was delighted to see these next generation farmers were so positive about the future.
They were also enthusiastic about the valuable contribution they can make to our economy and to tackling issues such as climate change.
Of course, farming could be the sector which is most affected by our changing relationship with European markets, globalisation and the withdrawal of ring-fenced EU support.
But the message I heard was there is a lot the Scottish Government can do, which is not being done, to help our farming sector and young people looking to start a career in the industry.
In particular, concerns were raised about tenancy legislation, land use/productivity, support for new entrants and problems in the beef sector.
I have written before for the Brexit hub that I am a strong advocate of designing a new system of financial support which works in favour of our particular strengths in Scottish agriculture.
When the Scottish Parliament passed my amendment in January this year, calling for a new group to design the future of farming support, I made very clear it should be made up of producers, consumers and environmentalists.
There is no point having Government Ministers, officials and political parties dictating a new support regime if we cannot get ‘buy-in’ from those who understand and work in rural Scotland.
I have no doubt that come 2022, if we have left the European Union, Government funding which was once part of a package to support our agricultural sector will be under immense pressure.
You only need to look at the poor state of the education system in Scotland or our health care services to see how appealing an extra budget of £500 million would be.
But if we have a positive plan for the future – one which has support from organisations right across the sector – it will be far more difficult for future Governments to chip away at the funding required.
The Next Generation Committee also attended the Rural Economy Committee, of which I am a member, and sat in the public gallery to see the final stage of the Climate Change Bill being debated in the chamber.
I was very pleased to see young farmers engaging with our political institutions in such a positive way and look forward to having them back in the future.