I agree. After finishing this point, I will come on to that one, which must be made.
We agree with the principles of
“sustainability, simplicity, innovation, inclusion, productivity and profitability”.
They are all laudable, but we also want a right to food. Too many of our children grow up in food poverty, which is storing up problems for future generations and the health service and affects their lifespan and life chances.
Farming and crofting are economic drivers as well as food producers, but the profit from the industry often goes to the people in the long food chain between field and fork. As Brian Whittle said, we need to find ways to tackle that, because rural poverty surely could be tackled by shortening the food chain and keeping the wealth in our communities.
Local procurement could cut costs for the public sector while also supporting the local agriculture industry. The potential to allow farmers and crofters to sell direct to public bodies is something that we have always talked about in Parliament but have never realised. We need to encourage co-operative working between individual businesses, which would allow them to compete for contracts and ensure the supply of goods. However, we also need to look at how small producers could access such contracts on their own. Such enterprises need support to get off the ground and to work towards being able to get into that procurement market.
New schemes must also recognise that co-operative working is important; they must encourage it rather than discourage it, which the current schemes often do by not recognising equipment rings and common grazings, for example, which are fundamental to rural farming and crofting.
If we are to halt depopulation and turn it around, we must maximise the impact of the industry and make sure that secondary processing also remains in communities.
We recognise the uncertainty that prevails and the impact that it has on our agriculture sector. We need an indication of what the future holds. We believe that we have an opportunity to build a policy and strategy that will support farming communities, going forward.
I move amendment S5M-16123.1, to insert at end:
“, and notes that any future system of rural payments should have inclusion as a principle, prioritise payments for those most in need, tackle rural and food poverty, and support repopulation in rural areas.”