EU changes drive NFU Scotland’s conference agenda

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By Hannah O’Hanlon

Preparing Scotland’s farmers and crofters for post-Brexit change is the theme of NFU Scotland’s packed two-day AGM, dinner and conference in Glasgow next month.

For the second year, the event will be staged at the Radisson Blu Hotel  on Thursday February 8 and Friday February 9.

It comes at a time of great challenges and opportunities for Scotland’s farming, food and drink sectors as the clock ticks towards the UK’s intended exit from the EU on March 29 2019 – only 14 months away.

The morning session on the first day leads with the presidential address by Andrew McCornick. He will map out the Union’s next steps as it ensures Scotland’s farmers and crofters get the best Brexit deal in terms of support, policy, trade and labour.

Dennis Overton, who will become the chairman of Scotland Food and Drink in April, opens on Thursday afternoon on growing Scotland’s booming food and drink industry, currently the country’s largest manufacturing sector.

Later the hot topic of agriculture and future environmental stewardship will be addressed by Terry A’Hearn, CEO of SEPA.

Pointers as to how innovation may provide the key to farm businesses surviving and thriving post-Brexit will come from two South West rural entrepreneurs.

Tracey Roan, of Roan’s Dairy, has established a business that is ‘fresher than the udders’ while Duncan McConchie of Laggan Outdoor has, in ten years, built a family farm-based tourism venture recognised as Scotland’s best outdoor/adventure experience.

Much has been made of the ‘Norwegian Model’ for deciding  future trading arrangements for Scotland and the UK.

Following an NFUS study trip to Norway in the autumn, delegates will hear from Eirik Magnus Fuglestad of Ruralis, the Norwegian Institute for Rural and Regional research.

Kristoffer Moan, from Trondheim, will speak about the challenges he faces as a beef and sheep farmer, including predation by lynx.

Day two opens with Scottish farmers and crofters being challenged to engage with the public and show what farming delivers in terms of food production, the environment and the local economy.

Speeches will come from Annabel Shackleton and Jane Craigie from the successful ‘Open Farm Sunday’ initiative.

Dundee farmer and businesswoman Caroline Millar, a participant in Open Farm Sunday and Director of GoRural, which specialises in supporting the development of agritourism, food and drink and rural businesses will host a session.

The conference concludes on Friday morning when Scotland’s cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity, Fergus Ewing, delivers the keynote speech to delegates.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: ‘With Brexit looming, the future for Scotland and the UK remains frustratingly unclear and is subject to intense debate.

‘NFU Scotland, at a political level, remains on the front foot in a bid to secure the very best deal for our industry, and this conference will continue the process of encouraging our membership to recognise that change is coming.

‘Scotland’s farmers and crofters are the cornerstone of a food and drink sector justifiably lauded as one of Scotland’s economic success stories.

‘Those producing the raw materials for our food and drink are the crucial element of what is now the nation’s largest manufacturing sector.

‘They are also the life blood of our rural economy and responsible for the countryside and environment enjoyed by millions.

‘But the reality is that farm incomes are falling, suggesting food chains must change in the future if all parties are to benefit from the ambitious targets for our food and drink sector.

‘Similarly, environmental rhetoric rarely recognises the public good that Scotland’s farmers and crofters already deliver.’

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick. no_c42andrewmccornick