A tub-thumping opener from NFUS President Martin Kennedy playing to the crowd on the strengths of Scottish farming and the myriad of challenges lying ahead.

Setting out the ‘ever-increasing list of challenges’ the Perthshire farmer talked through the Union’s work on energy prices, future farm policy, transport infrastructure, educating the public and species re-introduction.

One of the key elements of his speech was a call to farmers and the Union to correct ill-informed rhetoric about the farming affecting public opinion. He lambasted government’s north and south of the border for putting food production at ‘the bottom of the pile’ of priorities.

Telling delegates, he said: “What always astounds me is the lack of recognition that without what in many people’s eyes is the least important, food production, we will not be able to address any of the former challenges ahead as we will not have the people on the ground with the skills, knowledge and technology to do it for us.”

Rounding on the Westminster government Mr Kennedy said they ‘buckled to get a trade deal over the line as quickly as possible to make Brexit look like a walk in the park. I am not saying for one minute that Australian beef does not conform to many of our food safety and welfare standards. However, I am saying that their methods and costs of production are on a completely different scale to what we do here.”

Arguing that each trade alone may not spell disaster for farming but when combined together it could ‘write off our industry’. He went on to list egg powder from India and hormone fed beef from Canada as particular dangers to Scottish farming.

The Union’s lobbying efforts were commended by Kennedy as he highlighted the increases in migrant labour visas as a win and thanked the Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack for this support.

Again, the President defended his position as co-chair of the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) which has been criticised for not demonstrating enough progress in setting out future farming rules.

However he wanted to make it clear that ARIOB exists to advise Scottish Government on the direction of travel on future agricultural policy but ‘it does not take the decisions’.

He said: “So, when people say I would be better off being outside this group throwing stones and being heavily critical of such a slow process, it might be worth reflecting on what the alternative might be if we we’re not at the table trying our damnedest to get decision makers to see the wider picture.”

Before throwing the gauntlet down to the Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon who is due to address the conference tomorrow. He challenged the MSP, saying: “”we must hear from the Cabinet Secretary that progress has been made. There will still be a long way to go but the Cabinet Secretary must make clear the direction of travel.”