THE next generation of rural leaders should have more of a say in shaping the farming and food industry's future, says Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs (SAYFC) chief executive Penny Montgomerie.
Representing more than 3000 members, including next generation farmers and food producers, the SAYFC believes that by empowering young people to become more effective contributors, Scotland's rural youth will be better placed to take over the reins of this multi-million-pound industry.
Launching a new plan to support personal development and networking opportunities, the association is looking to place young people in the spotlight when it comes to matters affecting rural communities.
A recent poll of members identified three key issues on their minds – fuel prices, a scarcity of available farmland and the reluctance of banks to lend finance. The research also identified that members did not feel they had the skills or opportunities to influence the future.
Now, the association is hoping that by providing core skills training combined with networking opportunities, both on a local and national level, they will become a group of active citizens motivated to make a difference.
Initiatives include a study tour to Brussels to educate members on the wider political picture and how outcomes can be influenced, visits to businesses up and down the supply chain to gain further insight into customer and consumer demands, and the development of a farm management programme designed to train members in business planning and budgeting.
Ms Montgomerie said: "Our members are clearly passionate about Scotland's rural industries.
"The role of the SAYFC is to support this talent and harness the skills and enthusiasm to ensure the next generation is best placed to take the reins."
The Cumberland & Dumfriesshire Farmers' Mart had 36 prime cattle forward at its weekly sale in Dumfries on Wednesday when bullocks sold to 220.5p per kg and averaged 211.7p, while heifers peaked at 232.5p and levelled at 218.1p.
There were 67 OTM cattle presented in the rough ring when beef cows averaged 123.2p and dairy cows levelled at 109.4p.
In the sheep ring, 567 prime hoggs sold to £74.50 per head and 170p per kg to average 142.6p.
There were also 242 cast sheep forward, with heavy ewes selling to £103.50 for Texels and averaging £60.50, while light ewes peaked at £57.50 for Cheviots and levelled at £46.50.
United Auctions sold 737 store bullocks at Stirling on Wednesday to a top of 266p and an average of 211p (+3.7p on the week), while 604 store heifers peaked at 237.2p and levelled at 199.6p (+0.7p).
In the rough ring, 134 cast cows averaged 128.5p.