NFU Scotland has used its general election manifesto, released today, to call on MPs elected on June 8 to prioritise a good Brexit deal for Scottish agriculture.
The union said a good deal will be dependent upon free trade agreements with the EU and other countries which uphold high food production standards and protect the UK market from cheap imported produce.
Other Brexit asks include a ringfenced agriculture budget, with policy priorities developed and delivered by the Scottish Government, and a ‘sensible approach’ to immigration which allows access for EU farm workers.
Getting a good market return for farmers was another priority for the union, which is pushing for an extension of the Grocery Code Adjudicator’s remit and high-quality advice and market information which allows food producers to make more profit.
President Andrew McCornick said: “Irrespective of the decision to leave the EU, Scottish agriculture remains very vulnerable to fluctuations and shocks, threatening profitability and the ability to invest in the sector.
“The latest figures show Scottish farm incomes have fallen by a devastating 75 per cent over five years. The need to secure new trading deals, policies and support arrangements which put the prosperity, profitability and stability of farming and crofting businesses top of the agenda has never been more important.”
Compliance and penalties, zoning of water quality assessments, tagging of livestock and environmental regulations were all earmarked by the union as areas of law which are ‘not fit for purpose’ in Scottish and UK contexts. The manifesto calls on MPs to use the Great Repeal Bill as an opportunity to address concerns on these issues.
Prioritising Scottish produce
Other demands include maintaining the integrity of intra-UK agricultural trade; guaranteeing the same level of funding for Scottish agriculture after current assurances expire in 2020; prioritising Scottish produce in public procurement contracts; introducing clear country of origin labelling and encouraging the letting of land to new agricultural business start-ups with innovative tax and fiscal incentives.
Mr McCornick added: “It is clear agriculture is vital to Scotland and the UK’s future. The new UK Government must recognise the diversity and unique challenges Scottish agriculture faces as it takes forward its vision for the United Kingdom.”