The concept of Public Value underpins all of the strategic themes we set out below. Farming is not just a private commercial business. It performs many functions which are of benefit to wider society, and also has the potential to create negative impacts such as pollution.
The position of food production in the public value debate is a complex one. We still have huge areas of food poverty in Scotland, so any expectation that the future profitability of farming can be assured simply through increases in food prices is questionable. However, nor would it be in the public interest to pursue a 'cheap food' policy that, due to the constrained production conditions faced in Scotland, led to our food supplies being virtually all imported. We believe the public interest in this area lies in having security of food supply, produced from the most appropriate land, and safeguarding best land for food production wherever possible.
It is right that farming is both supported and regulated by government but the support should be targeted and progressive. Improving the delivery of public benefit in return for the public money invested in agriculture has been a feature of all recent policy reforms, and that trend will continue.
But governments act on behalf of the whole population, who both benefit from the landscapes and biodiversity that farming protects, and pay the taxes that fund the support payments. It is in the interests of farming that people should be well-informed about the industry, not just as consumers but as taxpayers and as citizens.
At present we have limited information on the attitude of the public to the farming industry. We see the need for a baseline study to establish current attitudes. We would then envisage an outward focussed information and branding campaign, owned and led by government but in partnership with the industry, to communicate to wider society about Scottish farming, its role and its challenges. Our sector has a fantastic commercial brand, thanks to the investment of private companies and public bodies like QMS but we also need to invest similarly in developing a societal brand which, like any branding exercise, will be a long term undertaking.