Agri Committee Update: RHS 2023

Agri Committee Update: RHS 2023

SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs to the Fore at the Royal Highland Show

The Scottish Association of Young Farmers Club’s Agri & Rural Affairs Committee had a busy and successful time at this year’s Royal Highland Show as they looked to promote and elevate the voices of young farmers in Scotland. The committee met with politicians, attended receptions and even appeared on National Radio and the show’s own dedicated Live feed, RHSTV.

One of the main highlights for the group was a joint meeting between the SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs committee and the NFU Scotland Next Generation Group. This meeting was with Mairi Gougeon MSP – Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform, and Islands. The Cabinet Secretary was accompanied by Ian Davidson OBE from the Scottish Land Matching Service and Henry Graham, chair of the Farming Opportunities for New Entrants (FONE) committee.


Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon had this to say about the meeting:

“I was delighted to join a number of young women and men from SAYFC and who are new entrants in farming for a panel session at the Royal Highland Show.  Hearing their views, ideas and experiences is hugely important, not least because new entrants and young farmers are vital for the future of the industry. They help to drive innovation and best practice, improve efficiencies and contribute towards the future economic and social vitality of the sector. We know that finding a way into the industry can be a daunting prospect and very specific challenges exist, particularly with land values and capital requirements.  It was a privilege to speak face-to-face with and listen to the attendees to hear further about the challenges they encounter.”


At this meeting, both SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs and NFUS Next Generation outlined their members’ concerns and priorities at the current time. These concerns included topics such as access to land for young people and also increasing opportunities for new entrants wishing to enter the industry. Access to funding for new entrants and widening the support around agricultural training were among other topics which were discussed.


In response to this the Cabinet Secretary looked to reassure the committee that the Government is committed to supporting Young and New Entrant Farmers:

“The Scottish Government has considerably invested in new entrants and young farmers over a number of years, with around £7.2m in direct payments since 2015. We have also offered Young Farmer Start Up Grants which totalled just under £12m and New Entrant Start Up Grant totalling just under £600,000.  These forms of support for new entrants, in England, were discontinued.

“We also provide a range of support for new entrants and young farmers through the Farm Advisory Service (FAS) and support succession through the Scottish Land Matching Service (SLMS), where a range of advice and support is offered free. 

“As stated in our Policy Prospectus this year, we will continue to work on options to further support new entrants and the next generation of farmers and crofters, which will enhance the diverse range of support already available. This government is also committed to supporting them through our future rural support framework and I want to include SAYFC and NFUS Next Generation members in that work as we develop the right scheme to provide them with the right form of support.”


The Committee’s second meeting at the show was attended by Douglas Ross MP MSP, David Duguid MP and Wendy Chamberlain MP as members of the UK Parliament Scottish Affairs Committee. This meeting allowed the Committee to outline the priorities of SAYFC at a UK Government level and ensure that their concerns were being heard south of the border.


Douglas Ross MP MSP – Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, highlighted the importance of the Young Farmers voice in current debates:

“Members of the UK Parliament’s Scott

ish Affairs Committee were keen to use the Royal Highland Show as an opportunity to meet a range of rural groups and organisations which is why Wendy, David and myself were grateful to the Young Farmers for meeting with us. It was a good opportunity to raise a number of crucial points we can follow up in Parliament and as part of our inquiries. As a former member of SAYFC myself, I’m keen that politicians at all levels have opportunities to speak with local Young Farmers clubs and the national office bearers. The policies we are debating in both Holyrood and Westminster will have an impact on the current and future generations of Scottish farmers which is why I think Young Farmers are such a crucial voice that needs to be heard by policy makers.”

Both meetings were chaired by SAYFC National Agri & Rural Affairs chair, John McCulloch. Who was enthusiastic about the show’s impact for the committee:

“The Royal Highland Show was a huge event for the SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs committee! We had engagement with industry leaders at all levels of the sector, as well as politicians from both Holyrood and Westminster. It was fantastic for us to have the opportunity to sit down in a room with policy makers for a considerable length of time and outline our members’ concerns and priorities. That is the main purpose of our committee, and we were delighted to take these opportunities. Although it was great to meet with these politicians at the show, it has been a long time coming and we would certainly welcome and encourage more consistent and regular meetings in the future. It was important for us to outline our priorities as a committee for the coming year at our annual reception. These aims were widely welcomed by the industry leaders in attendance, and we would like to thank all those who came along for their support!”


As John mentioned alongside these meetings, SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs also held their annual reception at the show. This event allows the committee to invite supporters, sponsors to join with them as they reconnect and lay out their main aims and priorities for the year. These included engaging more with grassroots members and increasing their work with industry organisations.

The committee were represented consistently at receptions and events around the showground, including at the Scottish Government reception, Quality Meat Scotland industry breakfasts and presenting on RHSTV, to name just a few.


Ken Fletcher- Editor of the Scottish Farmer even highlighted the committee’s good work in his Political Review of the show:

“For me the one thing that countered any negative undercurrents, was a feeling that Scotland’s young farmers are increasingly wanting to make their voices heard on some of the topical debates of the day. Indeed, they are determined to do so with their ‘para-military wing’, otherwise known as the Agri-Affairs Committee, who have a cohesiveness about them that perhaps is lacking in some other lobby organisations. More power to their elbow.”


SAYFC Agri & Rural Affairs is continuing to work tirelessly for members and is truly a leading voice for young people in Scottish Agriculture!