ENSURING that the standards applied to food imports match those applied to Scottish producers is crucial for the future of their industry.

“Put simply, our food safety, animal and plant health, welfare, traceability and any climate change targets for farming and crofting will be sold to the cheapest bidder if we don’t have this," warned NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick.

“Standards on imports must match ours or we will be living with double standards; one set for us and one for the rest of the world entering our market. NFUS has stated from the very beginning that we do not want agriculture and food to be a bargaining chip in these trade deals or to be sacrificed in the quest for cheap food."

Mr McCornick said that, as Brexit enters its final stage, it was time for politicians to 'deliver' on their promises to Scottish agriculture.

"We are entering into this melee as a nation of just over 60 million rather being part of a bloc of over 500 million and are going to be building new trading agreements with our biggest trading partner along with the rest of the world in very short order," he said. "We do not have the same leverage or power that we had so we must be more fleet of foot and flexible. There is an enormous responsibility on our politicians to get this right.

“The EU is our main and nearest market beyond the internal UK market, with established trade routes and partnerships. NFUS has been campaigning for free and frictionless trade with the EU to remain after Brexit. Remember our economies are very closely integrated."

But Mr McCornick also tried to sound a positive note: “I believe we have the opportunity to refresh and renew our industry from the stagnation that CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) has created and the failure to understand the market, which CAP support has perpetuated," he said.

“We need a holistic circular economy with sustainable resource use. This ambition must not be masked by exporting our climate change commitment by bringing in imports that are not delivering for the planet," he said.

“Farmers have a contract with nature. We are the original environmentalists. Environmentalists need farmers to deliver their aspirations as custodians of the countryside and farmers need environmentalists as they are the key to the money.”

For in-depth news and views on Scottish agriculture, see this Friday’s issue of The Scottish Farmer or visit www.thescottishfarmer.co.uk