Addressing the NFU Scotland annual conference, union president Andrew McCornick highlighted the need for a fairer supply chain, more profitability in the industry, and for farmers’ roles at the forefront of environmental practices to be recognised.
Uncertainty brought about by Brexit means Scottish farmers will need to move away from a reliance on farm support, but any new system must drive profitability into the sector for it to thrive in the coming years, NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick told the conference in Glasgow.
He told delegates that while Brexit created many challenges for the industry, it could also act as an opportunity for improving those areas which were currently failing farmers.
But for this to happen, the inherent failures in the supply chain must be addressed.
“The farming income figures just out show that despite the current levels of CAP support delivered from the EU, a large proportion of Scottish farmers are receiving less than the minimum wage for the hours that they are putting in,” said Mr McCornick, adding consumers were getting cheap, healthy, nutritious food ‘but the margin is elsewhere in the food chain’.
“I believe the supply chain is broken. Farmers and crofters need and deserve a fairer share of the consumer spend from the thriving Scottish food and drink sector.
"There has been a positive impact on improving the conduct of supermarkets but still more needs to be done to address trading practices.
“Current policy and support will change, but there will still be a need for on-going support for farming and crofting.”
He pointed to the environmental benefits which Scottish farmers and crofters already delivered and the need for greater acknowledgment.
“The carbon sequestration delivered through grazing our livestock on otherwise un-ploughable land is rarely factored into the climate change debate,” added Mr McCornick.
“Scotland is home to 13 per cent of the world’s internationally important blanket bogs, with huge climate change value as a carbon sink. We need to see value being attributed to the work of farmers and crofters for maintaining what is a public good.”