In what has to be the most badly organised announcement of a general election in living memory, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak stood outside number 10 in torrential rain to fire the starting pistol of the campaign.

Politics will now dominate the news agenda for the next few weeks until we get Independence Day from candidates on 4 July.

Pensions, defence and immigration have dominated the early days of campaigning, but what does a general election mean for the agri sector in Scotland?

Agriculture policy is devolved to Holyrood, so farm payments, environmental measures to tackle the climate emergency and farm plans remain firmly in the gift of MSPs, but decisions taken on the green benches of Westminster influence the sector north of the border.

Farming in Scotland has already felt the impact of UK trade deals as Westminster tries to balance the books following Brexit, while a solution to issue of recruiting seasonal workers for soft fruit and vegetable harvesting continues to elude the sharp minds of politicians and civil servants alike.

So what is the agri sector looking for from the next government? The general election may have caught many organisations and politicians on the hop, but NFU Scotland was well-ahead of the game in launching their manifesto in April.

READ MORE | July 4th general election date announced by Rishi Sunak

The Union’s manifesto sets out specific requirements that Scottish agriculture will need from any new Government, regardless of colour, to help it meet its full potential. NFU Scotland is also seeking clear manifesto commitments from all the main Westminster parties that back its key asks in five priority areas.

They ask for: ring-fenced and multi-annual funding to agriculture and to increase the UK Government’s funding commitment to the sector by at least an additional £1 billion to more than £4.7 billion; improve producer margins to increase food security; commit to developing and delivering migration policy that works for the rural economy, food security and worker welfare; protect domestic food production by classing agriculture as a sensitive sector in future trade deals and increase investment, tax and fiscal incentives that support agriculture and food production.

President Martin Kennedy told The Scottish Farmer: “The next parliamentary term will be pivotal for Scottish farmers and crofters. We need commitments from the next UK Government, and we need the full support of all prospective Scottish MPs who should all be championing the interests of Scottish agriculture.

“Covering over 74 percent of Scotland, active farming and crofting is key to helping to meet climate and biodiversity needs. In addition to producing food of the highest quality, agriculture underpins rural communities across Scotland and is at the heart of flourishing environments.

“High-quality agricultural production is vital to the wider food and drink industry – a sector that’s worth over £16 billion to the Scottish economy, employs over 130,000 people, and supports Scotland’s national reputation on the world stage.

“While most policy, legislation and regulation which directly and indirectly relates to our interests in the future prosperity of Scottish agriculture is devolved to Holyrood and the Scottish Government, our attention and influence must also be fixed on Westminster.

The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association (STFA) have also given careful consideration about their asks from Westminster.

STFA chair Christopher Nicholson said: “With agriculture being largely devolved to Holyrood, our General Election asks focus on matters reserved to Westminster.

“On the whole STFA’s asks of Westminster will be similar to other Scottish farming stakeholders including: clarity around future ring fenced multi-annual funding commitments; addressing the share of profit received by farmers in the food supply chain; ensuring post-Brexit trade deals are fair to farmers and ensuring the UK has sufficient border controls to implement the necessary animal and plant health checks on goods entering the UK market.”

Mr Nicholson also called for the UK government to review tax frameworks that influence decisions of landlords in the farm tenanted sector adding that the present tax system does not favour the letting of land to tenants.

He concluded: “There are fundamental issues that are reserved to the UK Government, such as trade, migration, and internal market issues. Top of the list is the fundamental need to deliver increased, ring-fenced and multi-annual funding.

“We are also calling for a review of the allocation of total funding across the UK to better reflect that Scotland punches above its weight in delivering for food, climate and biodiversity.”

One area of significant concern is the retention of young people in the sector and the challenges of attracting new entrants.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) highlighted that young people in agriculture are quite literally the future of the industry and with a membership full of eager young people that are ready to take on the task, SAYFC has a unique and privileged position, nurturing and celebrating the wide range of talent, skills and ambition of its members.

The organisation is currently conducting a members’ survey to collate opinions on agriculture and rural affairs that affect their daily lives in rural Scotland.

The spokesperson added: “From the information gathered to date, there is an early indication that there is work to be done by those in power in order create opportunities and ensure a safe and vibrant future for agriculture.

“Members have expressed a strong desire to see additional schemes to allow young people to be supported or encouraged into the industry. 70% of respondents believe that agriculture should be added to the Scottish Schools Curriculum, and 66% of respondents would like to see additional support provided for new apprenticeships.

When asked their opinions on the reintroduction of species, 76% of members responded that they worry that the voice of farmers and locals are not being listened to in relation to their experience of managing the areas when decisions are being made. Members have also highlighted some of the many challenges that they face in order to be actively involved in a career in agriculture. Responses have included examples of members changing career paths away from agriculture, in favour of other industries that offer better wages, working hours and job progression opportunities.”

The organisation said is committed to working with politicians, stakeholders and industry leaders to to ‘create a future that is innovative, thriving and lucrative for young people’.

The Scottish Farmer will continue to deliver in-depth political news and analysis throughout the campaign.