NFU Scotland has said it is essential farmers and crofters have their say on pivotal new powers the Scottish government is seeking within future agriculture policy.
The union has opened a survey to collect member views on the government’s proposal for a new Agriculture Bill, released on 29 August.
See also: Scots government sets out plans for future farm support
The consultation has been criticised by industry leaders for lacking clarity and detail for farmers and crofters.
Jonnie Hall, NFU Scotland’s director of policy, said: “Put simply, the bill is not policy and it does not, and will not, set policy. However, the bill is essential in that it will create the powers that are required to deliver future support from 2025 – not least in terms of future support payments.
“It is how the powers are used that will matter most – that is where the policy decisions and their implications for farming and crofting lie.”
Last week, 18 farm and trade groups in Scotland met to vent their frustration at the perceived lack of detail and direction in the consultation.
Neil Wilson, executive director of the Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers in Scotland, spoke on behalf of the groups at the meeting, which included NFU Scotland, the National Beef Association and the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association.
Mr Wilson said: “The frustration around the latest consultation is that we were expecting more clarity and direction for our members.
“But its context and content suggests that the Scottish government is not connected with the current issues on the ground and its policies could have unintended consequences, including negatively impacting food security and the future of agricultural production and the farmed environment in Scotland.”
Farmers Weekly has asked the Scottish government for comment.
The criticism comes at a time when tensions are mounting as to the role of the NFUS in the consultation process.
In a statement to the Scottish Farmer, former NFUS president Andrew McCornick criticised current president Martin Kennedy, who is also co-chair of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board, calling him “naive” for helping to draft what he sees as an excessively “green” policy outline.
Mr McCornick said: “Look at the predicament the co-chair of the ARIOB and president of NFUS has brought us to as a main architect of this consultation and its unwavering green agenda, while purporting to be an Agriculture Bill.” It meant he would be unable to challenge the contents or lobby for change.
But Mr Kennedy rejected this, saying being on the “inside” would give him more scope to influence policy.
“I have been crystal clear from the outset, my tenure as co-chair of ARIOB is a position I would relinquish immediately if the direction of travel being taken was not serving the needs of farmers and crofters.”