Councillors have backed a group set up to lobby for a fair support system for Shetland agriculture and to defend the £10 million a year that currently comes to the industry.
The threats over the next two years include the EU review of its Common Agricultural Policy with its big subsidies coming under pressure at a time of spending cuts. Meanwhile in Scotland there is a need to fight Shetland’s corner as the government decides on the future shape of financial support resulting from the so-called Pack Inquiry.
According to the council’s development department, if even £1 million of annual support is lost it could result in a loss to the Shetland economy totalling £2.1 million and the loss of around 70 jobs.
Head of business development Douglas Irvine said: “Obtaining an equitable outcome for Shetland agriculture from the review of the future support system after 2013 is extremely important if Shetland is to retain an active agricultural sector and maintain rural population.
“It is therefore essential to make sure that Shetland’s case is heard, perhaps in collaboration with other parts of the country, to encourage a debate that focuses on the needs of the remoter and less fertile agricultural regions of Scotland.”
As part of Shetland’s international campaign, an agricultural support working group has been revived to support the lobbying effort. The two councillors sitting on it are Jim Budge and Alastair Cooper. They are joined by Mr Irvine, union representatives, the Crofters Commission and the Shetland Livestock Marketing Group.
At Thursday’s meeting of the development committee Mr Cooper said: “Two years is not going to be long to change an awful lot of folk’s minds and that’s what we have to do.”
Mr Budge said Shetland produced top-quality livestock but the biggest problem it faced was the extra costs of getting feed in and transporting the animals out.