We are now out of Europe and have stepped off the transition bus into a new and untested trading environment. It will be different, but it will have a lot of the same with the worries over potential tariffs and quotas removed.
Scotland’s farmers and crofters, and our world-renowned food and drink sector, have been on a bumpy path through all the uncertainty. There are and will be issues and NFUS will take them on and seek remedies.
However, as I look towards 2021, it is not about the cards we have been dealt on Brexit, trade deals, policy or weather. It is how we play our hand and I firmly believe that, as an industry, we have the cards are stacked in our favour.
The world population is currently growing at 81 million people per year. These additional consumers will need more food while Scotland’s multifunctional land can also meet, at the same time, the growing demand for a range of goods and services that hits targets on climate change, the environment, renewable energy, biodiversity, and the wider and hugely important rural economy.
To move forward urgently, let us identify all the means and mechanisms we can put in place. Let us have credibility for farmers by investing in bioeconomy, bioenergy, agro-forestry, precision farming, and shorter food chains – support for which is within the Government’s gift.
NFUS has been promoting our industry as one that can change to meet public goods for public money requirements, with an upbeat forward-looking mindset. This outlook will empower our farmers and crofters and drive us forward to the holy grail of sustainable profit with all the environmental, welfare and standards the public expect as the return for their investment and support for our industry.
In 2021, the black cloud of COVID-19 needs swept away, a process driven by the vaccines that our scientists have developed, and lessons learned on the things we should do better but also how we have adapted and adopted new methods for good.
People should be more accepting of others’ views with ambition to work collaboratively for mutual benefit. There is a belief binary tribalism is ‘the norm’ and the use of social media to promulgate the “yer either for us or agin us” culture is acceptable. It is not hard being considerate and kind.
Agriculture also urgently needs delivery of an ambitious coherent policy delivering a sustainable profitable industry that addresses climate change, biodiversity and an increasing demand for nutritious high standard and welfare food. Procrastination has a price.
Brexit will go by, like foot and mouth, the oil crisis, and the great depression, but we need enough freedom and flexibility to be able to innovate and chose our own paths through it as well.
We need to throw open our doors to the public and build trust on what we do and how we do it. There is huge potential from selling our story both on farm and in the food chain. We also need to encourage more diversity in our industry across the piece it can and will add value both financially and culturally.
To quote Shihab Kazi: “The moment you need to get started is called “now”.”
I wish everyone health wealth and happiness for the coming year.