Scotland’s meat sector leaders have sought assurance from the Forestry Commission that they will be included in future consultations on tree planting proposals if the land concerned has livestock production value.
The request is contained in a letter to the director of Forestry Commission Scotland, Bob McIntosh, in which it is stated that meat plants are already operating on ‘crisis level’ supplies of cattle and sheep, leaving absolutely no room for blanket tree planting on land which is more suitable for livestock farming.
The letter, signed by Ian Anderson, Executive Manager of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW), points out that cattle and sheep output has been falling for the last eight years in Scotland and is now causing real difficulties for meat companies.
“The impact of this on the viability of the red meat sector can be seen in recent abattoir closures and business restructuring,” writes Mr Anderson, adding that SAMW has been lobbying hard for a CAP reform policy which incentivises livestock production, an aspiration shared across the Scottish Government and the farming and meat sectors in Scotland.
While welcoming the Scottish Government’s latest response to the Woodland Expansion Advisory Group’s report and recommendations on future tree planting in Scotland, including the promise of consultation on contentious schemes, Mr Anderson stresses the need for SAMW to be fully involved in such a debate.
“Association members have become increasingly concerned over the potential impact on future livestock supplies of large scale tree planting,” he writes. “While we therefore support the contribution tree planting can make to carbon reduction, and applaud the Scottish Government’s efforts to make Scotland more sustainable in environmental terms, we oppose blanket planting and stocking reduction, due to poor site selection.”
Turning specifically to the high profile prospect of the Forestry Commission planting trees on Corniehaugh Farm, near Rothiemay, he adds: “With the cattle breeding herd declining by 10% since 2004 and the sheep breeding flock having also declined significantly during this time, we are looking to government to secure the future of the meat and livestock sector in Scotland. Planting trees on a farm which runs 200 suckler cows will do exactly the opposite.
“The Scottish Tenant Farmers Association, National Farmers Union of Scotland, National Sheep Association, National Beef Association and Scottish Beef Cattle Association recently expressed deep concern over Forestry Commission Scotland’s plans. We agree with their views on this issue and would add SAMW’s voice to their call to prevent tree planting at Corniehaugh.
“We have no opposition to additional tree planting programmes for the good of the environment. However, considerable care must be taken to ensure this takes place on suitable land, not livestock farms like Corniehaugh.”