WHILE the notion that 'I'll believe it when I see it' remains as bright as a newly bloom-sprayed tup for this weekend's Kelso Ram Sales, the fervent hope is that the convergence money – both historical and in the future – will stick, as promised by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and confirmed by The Treasury.

So, thoughts must turn to how to spend these not inconsiderable sums, which should boost an industry that has not been without difficulties this year. It's already been made clear that upland farms will be the main target for spending – as this is where the biggest convergence anomalies arose – but how best to spend it will be the source of much debate.

Given the fact that this is new money and therefore, ostensibly, not attached to EU regulations like cross-compliance (or is it?) will it be applied in a targetted fashion or on a wholesale and pro-rata basis for the £160m historical convergence fund? This will be exercising the collective brains in both ScotGov and the various lobby groups – and each will have their own hobby horses riding on the outcome. But, it is going to be a rough ride for all involved and there needs to be strong hands operating the 'till' if it is not to be filched away.

What's also clear is that there appear to be few concessions made to the environmental lobby – so far – and maybe that is how it should remain. While much of this has a laudable outcome, enough time, effort and money has been spent on it at the expense of supporting 'real' agriculture. Farmers know that perhaps the best outcome for flora and fauna in the hills and glens is for the land to be stocked with cattle and sheep, for there is no better way to support an eco-system than managed grazing and dung from animals.

The fate of the £160m of historical monies is one thing, but there's a really exciting prospect of what to do with the promised £52m per year going forward. Smart farming tools will be an obvious target for grant aid, but care must be taken that only those that deliver real benefits are included. Things like intelligent weighing systems and auto feeders will only work if the cattle industry is carried wholeheartedly into the world of electronic ID tags. That should be one of the ways to make the most of this spend ... and could a return to the liming subsidy be another sweetener for the land? Time will tell, but this needs an intelligent hand using an artist's brush and not a broad broom better suited to whitewash!

Turning tide

THERE'S a sense that the tide might be turning for farming in its fight against the desktop self-proclaimed experts who have been filling newspaper pages and TV screens with absolute guff about farming's role in fighting climate change.

NFUS has always claimed that agriculture is part of the solution, not the main cause of greenhouse gas emissions, so it is good that BBC Scotland's Landward programme seems to be backing farming on this. With this in mind, keep an eye out for Landward next Thursday September 19 (BBC Scotland channel at 8.00pm) and repeated on BBC 1 on Friday September 20, 7.30pm) where our own Claire Taylor will be arguing the case for fairer reporting of what the industry has to offer on climate change.