‘Opportunity Rocks’

‘Opportunity Rocks’

Alistair Brunton of East Fife JAC commented in The Courier recently.

Coronavirus, Brexit, climate change, wet weather, price of beef, price of milk. How do we keep our glass half full? Well swap it for a rain gauge to start with!

I currently sit on SAYFC’s Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee as the East Region Chairman. We recently hosted a panel night at Ingliston House with the theme “Media: a threat to agriculture?”. Our panel consisted of Anna Davies (Scene and Herd PR, OnFarm podcast), Claire Taylor (The Scottish Farmer), Sally Williams (Oxford Farming Conference), and Martin Kennedy (NFUS), with Alan Laidlaw (RHASS) in the chair. The consensus on the night was that the general media were not a threat but an opportunity, the real threat comes from lazy journalism.

Agriculture has come under a lot of scrutiny from the media and the general public recently. We have been forced to defend our industry from public perception and we have to accept that we are far from perfect in the fight against climate change. When I look at social media, it is covered in vegan propaganda. You are probably wondering why I am friends with so many vegans? Unfortunately this information is constantly being shared by farmers. So, aren’t we our own worst enemy? As an industry we constantly add fuel to the fire by sharing this content and damaging our own reputation. Why do we not see this as an opportunity to champion our fantastic cereal, fruit, and veg sectors.

I was fortunate enough to be selected to go on the agri affairs trip to California in 2018. I witnessed first-hand beef being produced on a large feedlot. A single site that has the capacity for 120,000 head of cattle, all being pumped full of concentrates and growth hormones. They were slaughtering 1,500 a day. This is the serious threat to our industry if the UK starts importing cheaply produced beef from America that undermines Scottish producers who have a number of draconian regulations imposed upon them. These regulations, combined with quality assurance requirements, inefficient supply chains and a poor price leaves many farmers facing a number of challenges which can all impact on someone’s mental health.

Scottish agriculture has a massive opportunity to be world leaders and sell our fantastic story. We produce top quality produce, with high welfare standards, and with the potential to do this with a lower carbon footprint than anywhere else in the world. There is a real disconnect with agriculture from the general public, one way we can bridge this gap is to volunteer our time with RHET. It is so important that we get our future consumers on farm and show them where their food comes from. RHET are massively underfunded and one way I believe the whole industry can help is to introduce a RHET levy for all sectors. As we approach show season, this is a chance to get out and engage with the general public, sell your story and explain why they should be buying local, seasonal produce. The NFUS day of celebration on 23rd May, is a great way for the industry to work together and promote all that we do well to our consumers.

Young Farmers has so many fantastic opportunities for its members, be it training or travel, that aren’t taken full advantage of. I’ve been an active member of East Fife JAC for over 7 years now, we have just celebrated our 75th anniversary and have had a few strong years. We are now in a situation where the club is very young, with a lot of junior members joining. This is great for the future of the club, but we have struggled to get more senior members to step up on to the committee. The social side of Young Farmers is probably its main selling point, but these events do not happen overnight. It’s all very well turning up for the parties, but someone has to blow up the balloons. I encourage all senior members to get involved, take their turn, and give back a bit of what they have taken out as young members. I’m a big believer in that the old adage, you get out what you put in.