A Bute farmer has been named NFU Scotland’s new regional chair for Argyll and the Islands.
Appointed at the regional AGM, which took place in Tarbert on Friday, January 15, John Dickson of Scalpsie Farm is already relishing the challenge he faces in representing the area’s farming community.
He replaces Mid Argyll member John Semple, of Lochead Farm, Achahoish, Lochgilphead, who has ably served the region as chairman for the past five years.
Mr Dickson farms in partnership with his son, Ian, where he runs 140 beef cows and 1000 Blackface and cross ewes. He has been a long-serving representative for Argyll and the Islands on the union’s Tenant Farming Working Group and is a past chairman of his local Bute branch.
Speaking after his appointment, Mr Dickson said: “It is an honour to be elected to this post. Having represented the region on tenant farming matters for some years, I felt it was the right time for a new challenge.
“An immediate priority will be to support those milking cows on Bute, Gigha and in Kintyre. The situation for dairy farmers is now critical and, given their importance to the wider rural economy, we need to look at how we can get more money into the pockets of the region’s dairymen.
“Having represented the region on tenancy matters, the current Land Reform Bill going through the Scottish Parliament could have a big impact and we need to make sure that we fully understand how the Bill may affect both land-owners and tenant farmers.
“And given the hugely important contribution that hill farming in Argyll and the Islands makes to food production, communities, local economies, tourism, biodiversity and landscapes, we need to make sure that changes to support arrangements do not undermine this vulnerable sector.
“Changes to direct support arrangements for 2015 onwards are only just bedding in but we must remember that Pillar 2 support for our hill farmers, through the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, has also been a crucial lifeline.
“That, too, is going to change from 2017 onwards. I want to make sure that the shift to the new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme does not impact on the region. While devising a new scheme will be challenging, it is such a fundamental part of the total support package for hill farming in Argyll and the Islands that we must make it work.”