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Direct agri support needed, says Ewing

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Direct agri support needed, says Ewing

FERGUS Ewing, former Secretary for Rural Economy opened Scotland’s Beef Event at Dumfries on Tuesday, stating the case for direct support for agriculture in Scotland.

He pointed out that his approach when he was Cabinet Secretary was to listen to farmers and produce a series of plans, one of which was the Suckler Beef Climate Scheme, where he claimed the ideas are as relevant today as they were then.

Addressing the crowd at Dalswinton Estate, Mr Ewing said: “This should be the basis of how we support the beef sector. The Scottish Government was successful in winning back £160 million convergence money from the UK Government, but alongside that there is the Bew money which I believe should be used in substantial part to support the continued success of the beef sector.

“Beef suckler cow numbers have dropped dramatically from 520,000 in 2000 to 419,000 in 2019 and still falling. We must stem the loss of numbers because we need a critical mass to support the whole supply chain. Therefore we must not go down the route of countries like the Netherlands, where we see this absurd policy of the mandatory cull of the beef herd; in that path lies ruin. What we must do is support the farming industry as a whole, but the backbone is the beef sector.”

Mr Ewing said he understood the frustration of Scottish farmers concerned about the lack of clarity on post 2025 funding, adding: “I feel the prime objective should be to maintain quality food production in a sustainable fashion through direct support. We cannot take food security for granted, the Ukraine war has shown us that. We should appreciate what farmers do; many farmers are feeling beleaguered due to vegan campaigns, universities having no meat days and so on. It is ludicrous; meat should be part of healthy, balanced diet and the silent majority agree.”

The MSP acknowledged that beef farming accounts for 26 per cent of Scottish agriculture output and needs money spent on it. He went on to say that although the arable sector is by and large more profitable, he believes the case for gene editing is overwhelmingly strong and needs a short, sharp debate.

On authorising Asulox for the control of bracken is a policy, he said he has been working hard to ensure it continues to be authorised as it is the only effective control of this invasive species and nothing has changed since last year, adding: “It is absolutely essential this is authorised soon and even if the HSE recommends against authorisation, each country can still go ahead with authorisation, my expectation is the UK Government will authorise Asulox and if Scotland does not it will be an absolute outrage.”

Liberalising planning permission would allow farmers to use their own land to best advantage, he pointed out, saying: “The sleeping capital held in the farming community could be put together to build houses and simultaneously help solve the rural housing shortage. Another way to allow them to diversify would be to dust-off the Agriculture Business Development Scheme.

“The farm income statistics show that farms which have already diversified have an income 50% more than average.”


Dumfries and West

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