Farms pave way to beat climate change


Four farms have been selected to test and demonstrate climate friendly farming methods in Scotland.

Selected by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead, the Climate Change Focus Farms will work to reduce emissions, improve efficiency and boost productivity.

The initiative is a central theme in the Scottish Government's Farming for a Better Climate programme and will help the industry contribute towards national emission reduction targets.

Richard Lochhead said:

"Scotland's farmers are ready to play their part in moving towards a low carbon society and not only can the industry cut emissions but farming businesses can save costs at the same time and earn new income.

"Our target to reduce emissions by at least 42 per cent by 2020 is among the most ambitious in the world.

"To succeed, all sectors of the economy must play a full and active part and farmers have been among the most enthusiastic to take part. Working directly with nature on a daily basis, farmers are already noting the steady changes in our climate. They have a clear view of the potential impact climate change could have on their livelihoods.

"Our four Climate Change Focus Farms will demonstrate how avoidable greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced whilst balancing sustainable food production and maintaining a competitive farming industry.

"The farms will demonstrate tangible, credible examples of low carbon farming in action as well as revealing cost-effective outcomes."

The Four Climate Change Focus Farms represent the three agricultural sectors - dairy, upland livestock and arable. The fourth will demonstrate farm diversification and can be used for education and public demonstration.

The farms are:

  • Torr Farm, Auchencairn, Castle Douglas. A dairy business run by Ross and Lee Paton
  • Glenkilrie Farm, Blairgowrie. An upland livestock business run by David Houstoun
  • Milton of Mathers, near St Cyrus, Montrose. An arable farm run by James Reid
  • Stewart Tower Farm, Stanley. The diversification and demonstration farm run by Neil and Lynsey Butler

Speaking on behalf of SAC, Chief Executive Professor Bill McKelvey said

"Climate Change is affecting agriculture as it will affect us all, but SAC research has already shown there are win wins for the industry if it takes the right steps. The challenge won't be solved by relying on others to come up with the answers, the industry must be involved in discovering the most practical solutions that suit individual businesses.

"The Focus Farm groups are a key part of that. I believe that together, these pioneering groups and SAC can make real progress in delivering for the industry, for the Government and for Scotland."

Jonnie Hall, Head of Rural Policy, for NFU Scotland said:

"There is a real opportunity for Scottish farmers to continue to produce more food, impact less on the environment and still improve the bottom line of their businesses. For grass roots farmers to buy into that message they need to see farm-based evidence that reducing emissions and cutting waste will genuinely improve their efficiency and their profitability.

"The Climate Change Focus Farms will help generate the kind of best practice that all farmers can relate to, whether they are rearing livestock or growing crops. That is good news for Scottish farmers and good news in ensuring that our sector's record on emissions continues to improve in the future."

The Focus Farm programme will run until 2012 establish best practice and establish monitoring and reporting procedures. Open days and demonstrations will take place on the farms.

The Scottish Government's Farming for a Better Climate (FBC) initiative is delivered by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC). It sets out five key mitigation measures for farmers and land managers which are:

  • using energy and fuels efficiently
  • developing renewable energy
  • locking carbon into the soil and vegetation
  • optimising the application of fertilisers and manures
  • optimising livestock management and storage of waste

The action areas are based on the following principles:

  • ensuring that resources used in farm businesses are put to best use
  • taking the most cost effective steps first
  • minimising waste
  • developing new business opportunities where these could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act sets a mandatory target of at least an 80 per cent cut in emissions by 2050 and includes: all internationally recognised greenhouse gases; emissions from international aviation and shipping; an interim target of at last 42 per cent for 2020; and a framework of annual targets to drive early action. Emissions from agriculture and related land use account for an estimated 20 per cent of total emissions.