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Louise Batchelor reports
"The Scottish Executive wants to keep farmers on the land with new contracts"
 real 56k

Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie
"The vision is to recognise how important agriculture is"
 real 28k

Hugh Raven of Organic Scotland
"We need a strategy specifically for the organic sector"
 real 28k

Farmer Alistair Nelson
"The support system has to be fair across the whole of the European Union"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
New vision for farming industry
Cattle feeding
Many cattle farms were devastated by foot-and-mouth
A blueprint for the future of farming in Scotland has been outlined.

The 2bn industry, which employs 70,000 people, has been badly hit by the foot-and-mouth crisis and a sharp downturn in farm incomes.

The plans to provide a future for Scotland's beleaguered farmers were published on Tuesday by Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie.

Tractor ploughing field
Farming methods may have to change
He signalled the need for changes to traditional attitudes and working practices.

He also stressed the need for farming to integrate more fully with the processing and retail sectors and for greater attention to environmental issues.

And he challenged farmers to become more competitive and in tune with consumers.

The strategy document was drawn up over the past year following extensive talks between Scottish Executive officials and those involved in the farming industry.

It includes a range of initiatives aimed at ensuring farming in Scotland has a long-term future.


If foot-and-mouth taught us anything, I believe that it is a healthy rural economy needs a healthy farming industry

Ross Finnie
The executive aims to work with the farming sector to introduce a new system of European Union support and land management contracts to reward multi-purpose farms.

A working group will be set up to look at how farming affects the environment and what solutions can be found to the problems that exist.

And Quality Meat Scotland, which oversees standards within the meat industry, will also introduce new measures aimed at improving food quality.

Mr Finnie said the strategy identified the industry's strengths and weaknesses - and the areas where change was needed.

"Farming is always going to be subject to large outside forces," he said at the launch of the blueprint.

"We cannot control these dangers, but it is vital that we build an industry that is robust enough to withstand them.

"It challenges every farm business to examine its cost structures and production patterns to improve its performance."

Ross Finnie
Ross Finnie: "A vital role to play"
The foot-and-mouth outbreak showed the importance of agriculture to Scotland and how quickly, when farming sneezes, the whole rural economy catches cold.

The industry generates 400m worth of exports and employs thousands of people the length and breadth of the country.

Mr Finnie said farming could only become prosperous again if it started responding to the needs of its customers.

He said: "Farm businesses, in common with other parts of the food chain, must also produce something consumers are prepared to pay for.

"That means understanding customers better, reducing costs, working more closely with others in the food chain and only producing something when you have a customer to sell it to."

And he added: "If foot-and-mouth taught us anything, I believe that it is a healthy rural economy needs a healthy farming industry.

"That is not to say that farming has a right to be there come what may. It has responsibilities to fulfil and it also has the potential to benefit the wider rural community.

"The strategy calls on everyone to wake up to these links. We need to get better at making these links work to the benefit of everyone."


We will support government and its agencies to ensure that the promises of action offered in the strategy are actually delivered

Jim Walker, NFU Scotland
The National Farmers' Union of Scotland president Jim Walker welcomed the strategy.

"If we don't want to buy all our food from abroad, if we want the whole of the rural economy to flourish and if we want to protect and enhance our environment, then we need a successful farming industry - it is as simple as that," he said.

"The Scottish Executive, through the strategy, is committing itself to a route to a better future for agriculture.

"NFU Scotland is already playing its part in managing change to secure a better future for farmers and crofters wherever they live and work.

"We will support government and its agencies to ensure that the promises of action offered in the strategy are actually delivered."

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See also:

14 Feb 01 | Scotland
Farming 'disaster' warning
07 Jun 01 | Scotland
Farmers' leader hears disease fears
31 Jan 00 | Scotland
Scottish farm incomes plummet
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