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Major survey highlights failures of Scottish Government on future agricultural policy as biggest threat to farmers and crofters

Martin Kennedy (NFU Scotland President)

NFU Scotland’s 2023 Intentions Survey has seen the nation’s farmers and crofters identify growing uncertainty over Scottish Government’s future agricultural policy as the greatest threat to their business.

On first analysis of the 555 responses – the largest response the Union has ever received to a survey – almost two-thirds of all respondents identified future agricultural policy as the most significant threat.

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As an immediate response, the Union is calling on Scottish Government to address those concerns and uncertainty by quickly bringing forward much-needed detail on new policy measures that farmers and crofters will have to adopt from 2026 if they are to deliver on the food, climate, nature and rural development ambitions being set by the Scottish Government.

Volatile market prices and the unprecedented spike in input costs of fertiliser, fuel, animal feed and utilities also scored highly when respondents were asked identify what will impact on their business in the coming year.  Availability of labour remains a key concern for some sectors, specifically horticulture, intensive livestock and dairy, and wider land use policy, consumer attitudes, biosecurity and livestock disease risk also scored highly in terms of risk.

The Union will examine the huge volume of data it has captured to identify the intentions for livestock, dairy, arable, pigs, poultry, horticulture and diversification.

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said: “This survey, with responses from all parts of the country and all sectors, is a robust reflection of the sombre mood of Scotland’s farmers and crofters as we enter an incredibly challenging 2023.  I thank all of those who took the time to respond and, in the coming weeks, we will examine the huge amount of data that is already giving us real insight about the immediate future for Scotland’s food and farming sectors.

“Already, some headlines are stark but unsurprising. It’s evident that the number one concern of those producing the nation’s food is the growing uncertainty around what Scotland’s future agricultural policy will look like beyond 2025 and what measures will be open to farmers and crofters for support as part of that policy.

“That increasing uncertainty is already eroding confidence – causing too many to question their futures which, ultimately, threatens Scotland’s food security, together with its environmental integrity and economic prosperity.

“NFU Scotland has repeatedly called for Scottish Government to put potential ‘enhanced support’ options in the public domain in the wake of its consultation on an Agriculture Bill.  Indeed, had Scottish Government listened to the industry and its own farmer-led groups, we could have introduced some of the measures last year and already be started on our post-Brexit transition away from the Common Agriculture Policy and towards the delivery of what are rapidly becoming increasing demands to address climate and biodiversity targets.

“Instead, politics and bureaucracy within Scottish Government appear to be holding back an industry ready to make a difference. 

“In a few weeks’ time, we look forward to welcoming the Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon to our AGM, Dinner and Conference where there will be a huge expectation that more detail will be shared with farmers and crofters on what they will be asked to do so that they can get on with preparing to deliver for Scotland with more certainty and confidence.”

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