National Test Programme announced.
Farmers and crofters are to be supported to play their part in Scotland becoming a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
A National Test Programme will begin next spring, with up to £51 million of investment over the following three years.
The Programme will support and encourage farmers and crofters to learn about how their work impacts on climate and nature, including offering financial support to carry out carbon audits and nutrient management plans. This will establish a clear baseline and options for action for all who participate.
Through work with a focus group of farmers and crofters, the Programme will also help understanding of how sustainable farming can be supported and rewarded in future. This will ensure the right tools and support are in place when, from 2025, the climate and biodiversity performance of businesses will determine the level of agricultural support payments.
In addition, the Programme will put in place livestock data and performance systems for businesses in the beef sector with the aim of improving both business and emissions performance.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon outlined the Programme as she addressed the AGM of the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, where she also set out the Scottish Government’s vision for the future of agriculture in Scotland.
Ms Gougeon paid credit to the many farmers who are already taking action to address the climate and nature crises.
The Rural Affairs Secretary said:
“The key to change, to succeeding in doing so, is by working together, listening and learning along the way. You have played such a key role in our past and you are vital to our future. We will not successfully address the twin crises of climate change and nature without you.
“We are embarking on a journey of transformation. There will be challenges on the way, there are risks, and there will be tough decisions to be made by us all, but there are also huge opportunities if we want to make them and take them.
“We can be global leaders in sustainable agriculture – we can set the global benchmark for what regenerative agriculture actually means.
“We will produce more of our food more sustainably, we will deliver climate mitigation and adaptation, we will restore nature and protect and enhance biodiversity, and our success will mean we get to pass to future generations, a land, a climate and a country that works for their benefit and for the benefit of the whole planet.”
Written question and answer on actions to support farmers and crofters to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and farm more sustainably
The establishment of the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board in the summer made a priority of creating a National Test Programme.
The programme is based on and informed by the work and recommendations of the Farmer Led Groups, particularly to ensure we are beginning to tackle the most urgent needs and creating a base upon which to build a whole farm low carbon approach.
The Farmer Led Groups were established in 2020 across all sectors - suckler beef, arable, hill, up-land and crofting, dairy and the Scottish pig industry - with the aim of developing advice and practical recommendations to help drive the change needed to help us meet these challenges. The reports from the Farmer Led groups were published in March 2021 – this includes the report from the Suckler Beef Climate Group Programme Board.
The Scottish Government’s Climate Change Plan Update, published in December 2020, commits the agriculture sector to reducing its emissions by 31% from current levels by 2032.
The consultation Agricultural Transition in Scotland: first steps towards our national policy is open until 17 November 2021.
Both pieces of work will directly inform the paper setting out the proposals for a future Agriculture Bill. The paper will be published and consulted on in 2022.