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Food security threat as firms buy up farmland

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Food security threat as firms buy up farmland

FOOD security is being threatened in Dumfries and Galloway by rich companies in London buying up agricultural land to offset their carbon emissions, it has been claimed.

It was revealed that close to 1000 hectares of farmland has been sold off in the Lochar ward alone as big bucks firms purchase land and plant trees in order to find a way around environmental regulations.

Lochar councillor Maureen Johnstone raised serious concerns about the practice at last week’s full council meeting and called for action to prevent further loss of land, farming jobs, and local produce.

She told the meeting: “What we have here are businesses who, the minute land is coming on the market, they are coming in and offering well over the market value, completely pricing out any farmer from that land.

“And we’re looking at syndicates. People from London and huge businesses are coming so that they can offset their emissions.”

She then explained that a 600 acres farm in the Lochar ward that was sold usually produced 64,800kg of beef, 20,000kg of lamb, and 180 tonnes of barley every year. Five farm workers all aged under 40 used to work on that land.

Councillor Johnstone said: “Now they’re all out of work on that piece of land. We won’t be producing any of this beef, lamb, or barley there for the future.

“If there’s no farmers, there’s no food. And this is not just Dumfries and Galloway, this is nationwide.”

She added: “This is happening, but people don’t see it happening. It’s going under the radar.”

North West Dumfries Councillor Graham Bell – who runs a farm – also warned about potential dangers if agricultural land isn’t protected.

He said: “I’m a beef farmer. We’re needing less trees, and more productive land.

“I’ve planted a number of trees on my land over the last few years to offset carbon, and for biodiversity schemes, but we’re also facing a shortage of beef and lamb in this area.

“We can’t keep eating trees!”

Councillor Johnstone tabled a motion asking that the council writes to the Scottish Government calling for carbon emissions to be cut at source – rather than offset against the loss of agricultural land and our rural communities.

It was unanimously agreed that council leader Gail Macgregor writes to the Scottish Government on this issue.


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