Agricultural transition in Scotland - first steps towards our national policy: consultation analysis
Analysis of the responses received to the Agricultural Transition in Scotland consultation. The consultation was carried out between August 2021 and November 2021.
Appendix B: Additional analysis
Given the breadth of responses, the main report focuses on the most common themes seen at each question. The additional analysis in Appendix B includes descriptions of less commonly mentioned themes, and lists of points or suggestions made by respondents.
Q1.1: Should agricultural businesses receiving support be required to undertake a level of baseline data collection? Please explain your answer.
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Some respondents argued that the baselining process must not penalise those who have already made positive environmental progress.
- A few respondents called for voluntary collection, and for consideration to be given to who owns, accesses and uses the data. However, there was also recognition that voluntary schemes may not attract sufficient numbers. Two suggested a two-tier scheme where initial support is not dependent on data collection.
While it was not directly requested, some respondents suggested types of data that should be part of the baseline collection. These included:
- Carbon audits, overall carbon footprint (that also include carbon footprint of animal feed, housing and transport), net carbon balance, carbon capture through soil improvements and grassland sequestration
- Biodiversity indicators, local wildlife habitats and baseline habitat maps.
- Soil testing and analysis including Soil Organic Matter (SOM), bulk density, pH and nutrient management. One respondent suggested using satellite biomass imagery to monitor and adjust Nitrogen applications.
- Water quality and pollutants
- Natural regeneration of plant, scrub, hedge and tree growth to mitigate against drought and fire
- Sustainable food production
- Health-giving access for humans - paths, signage, natural not engineered
- Socio-economic characteristics (e.g. processes, policies, standards) and land management practices and associated resources (e.g. fertilisers, energy, crop protection measures)
- Wild animal welfare and stock animal health and welfare plans, including livestock breeding and management plans. Specifically mentions of implementing the 7 principles for wild animal welfare and outcome-based animal welfare indicators including those relating to the five domains model, the opportunities for positive experiences, and qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA).
- Land use change. One suggested a simple map-based, record of the land, its soils (with sampling), monuments, habitats and biodiversity
- Energy generation
- Forage and manure analysis
- Chemical inputs e.g. fertiliser, herbicides, insecticides, sheep dip
- Fuel consumption per hectare
- Record area of farm not used productively
- Length of hedgerows on each farm
Q1.2: Should collected data be submitted for national collation? Q1.3: What information should be collated nationally? Please explain your answer.
Other types of information to be collated
In addition to carbon and other emissions, biodiversity and soil, respondents made a variety of suggestions for information which should be collected, both at Q1.3 and other questions. It should be noted that, while the question asked which data should be collated nationally, it is not always clear whether respondents are suggesting information for data collection, or for national collation.
Sequestration was mentioned by some respondents, mostly in the context of soil carbon, but it was also felt that it should include data on woodland, agroforestry, grassland, hedgerows and peatland restoration.
Some also suggested water quality, but did not provide any additional detail on this.
Other suggestions, made by small numbers, included:
- A small group of respondents made a similar call for measures to help better understand the wider social and economic role of farming. This includes information on land ownership, employment, training and wider public engagement
- Livestock management, animal health and welfare including medicine use
- Flood and drought management
- Use of fertiliser, pesticides, plant protection products
- Home-grown and imported feeds e.g. soya beans
- Crops planted, seed used, harvest output / yields / productivity, mixture of cover crops
- Use of manure, slurries and sludge including methane emissions
- Land use
- Ploughing and tillage activities
- The scale of shrub, tree and woodland assets on the croft or farm and their condition
- Weather patterns
- Wader and wetland management
- Air pollution
- On-farm wastes e.g. volumes of managed manures and slurries, volume and composition of crop residues, volume of food and crop waste
Data already collected
A small number gave examples of where data already exists which could be used or collated more effectively. These included:
- Cattle and sheep data from ScotEID/SAMU
- Carbon audits carried out under the Beef Efficiency Scheme
- Industry soil maps, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology land cover maps, the long-running Countryside Survey, BTO's Breeding Bird Survey
- The agricultural census and annual SAF, the latter of which records land use and livestock numbers
- Animal Health Plan data which may be collected by livestock farmers for farm assurance purposes.
- Integrated Pest Management Plan which may be collected by farmers for farm assurance purposes.
Q1.4: What are the next steps that can be taken to commit businesses to continuous improvement utilising the information presented by carbon, soil, biodiversity auditing? Please explain your answer.
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Some respondents highlighted improved soil analysis as a vital next step.
- Greater enforcement through regulation and legislation was suggested by some.
- Some felt steps to introduce farm assurance or certification would create an incentive to make improvements to practice. The role of farm assurance is covered in more detail in Chapter 10.
- Using aggregated information to set clear policy objectives and targets, or to inform wider policy more generally was called for by a few respondents.
- A small number questioned what is meant by continuous improvement and how it can be achieved. One argued that once a farmer has met their target, that should be all they need to do; others reflected on diminishing returns and that it will become harder to demonstrate continuous improvement over time. A few argued that businesses should not be penalised in these instances.
- A few highlighted the potential role of technology and innovation in data gathering.
- Three called for a move to plant-based farming.
- Two suggested closer ties with research institutes.
- Two called for reducing or stopping food imports.
Q1.5: How can baselining activities be incorporated into common business practices across all farm types? Please explain your answer.
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Some misinterpreted the question and suggested actions which did not relate to baseline activities. These are listed in below. Similarly, some commented on the role of the baseline; these themes were addressed under Q1.1.
- A small number argued that supply chain, market or consumer pressure might encourage farmers to adopt better practice and drive change.
Specific examples of approaches which could help baseline activities be incorporated into common practices included:
- Using an approach similar to the English SFI (sustainable farming incentive) system
- Practical demonstration through Change Focus Farms and Monitor farms
- Echoing the current Basic Payment Scheme
- Small discussion circles such as those sponsored by CAFRE in Northern Ireland, giving support to all involved
- Deriving approaches to soil sampling from work proposed in the 2022-27 Strategic Research programme on Large Scale Modelling [Topic Line C5], and the Underpinning National Capacity Function 9 on Soils and related environmental data: collection, management, application, dissemination and governance
- The farmer-led QMS / AHDB monitor farm benchmarking programme is a good example of sharing knowledge so that the systems operated by the top performers are replicated more widely.
- A functioning agricultural knowledge and innovation system (AKIS) which is designed to support nature-based solutions to climate change, managing land for wildlife and the delivery of public goods, as well as growing and providing healthy and nutritious food.
- LEAF's Integrated Farm Management (IFM) framework which allows for baselining activities to be included across all farm practices.
- The Livestock Performance Programme (LPP) which is making additional use of existing livestock traceability data within ScotEID that can provide valuable herd insight to improve business and environmental efficiency. SAOS note they are introducing features to support trend analysis and nudge techniques that will help producers more actively engage with derived charts and tables, leading to greater impact.
Across Q1.4 and Q1.5, some respondents suggested actions or improvements which farms could undertake which did not relate to baseline data collection. These included:
- Setting aside land for woodland; planting hedges.
- Crop rotation e.g. two year rotational legume and herb mixtures.
- Establishing fallow areas and environmental crops.
- Regenerative grazing and more use of home produced grass fed livestock.
- Creating naturally functioning river corridors, by re-establishing riparian woodlands and wetlands.
- Setting aside a proportion of land dedicated to carbon capture.
- Removing livestock from farms.
- Grassland sequestration.
- Reviewing animal diets and breeding to reduce methane emissions.
- Measures to reduce fuel and power consumption.
- Phasing out industrial farming.
Q2.1: Should capital funding be limited to only providing support for capital items that have a clear link to reducing greenhouse gas emissions? If not, why not?
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Calls for capital funding to consider or give priority to whole farm approaches were made by some respondents; a few felt this could reduce opportunities for pollution swapping where an improvement in one area could lead to a deterioration in another. Related to this, a small number suggested funding for collaborative proposals e.g. groups of neighbouring farms who could share equipment.
- A few called for reassurance that any funding does not disadvantage those who have already invested in steps to reduce emissions, or go to wealthy landowners.
- Only 25 of the 83 respondents who agreed with question left an open comment. Around half of these comments expressed support for limiting funding to reducing emissions due to the urgency of tackling the climate crisis.
Other environmental issues which would benefit from capital funding
Many respondents raised a variety of environmental issues which capital funding could address, including:
- Soil health
- Air and water pollution (including fencing off water courses)
- Animal health and welfare, including antibiotic resistance
- Peatland restoration
- Carbon sequestration
- Using less chemicals, fertilisers and pesticides
- Reduction in food miles
- Renewable energy production
- Slurry storage and application
Other uses for capital funding
The range of other potential uses of capital funding raised by many respondents included:
- Sustainable food production and food security
- Support for young farmers and addressing a labour shortage
- Improving farm working conditions and health and safety
- Support for an ageing workforce
- Support for heritage breeds
- Ensuring safe public access to the countryside
- Maintaining and developing rural communities
- Conservation of historical assets
Q2.3: What capital funding should be provided to the sector to assist in transformational change, particularly given that in many instances the support called for was directly related productivity or efficiency, that should improve financial returns of the business concerned?
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Funding to bring social benefits was suggested by some. Examples included: population retention; housing; employment; addressing labour shortages; promoting health and safety; and fostering 'equity among food producers, rural communities and citizens.
- Some highlighted supporting diversification into areas including eco-tourism, cut flowers, oat milk production, outdoor education, and public access to farms.
- A recurring theme was a request for funding for education, training or knowledge exchange, data gathering and analysis/modelling or research and innovation.
- Some respondents highlighted the challenges to accessing funding that are faced by smaller scale farms, crofts and community growers, new-entrant farmers or those farming in less favoured areas. Equality of access and means tested funding to address this was called for by some.
- The importance of having a clear definition of 'transformational change, and of linking funding to wider governmental policy objectives and legal regimes, was called for in a few comments. So too was and the need to clearly communicate the links between policy objectives and capital funding, to both farmers and the wider public.
- A small number argued against providing any capital funding to farmers.
Examples of funding schemes
Examples of previous funding schemes - both those perceived to be successful and unsuccessful - were also shared in some comments.
New Entrant Capital Grant Scheme (NECGS)
Respondents cited this as an example of a well-targeted grant that helped individuals and businesses develop.
Crofting Agricultural Grants Scheme (CAGS)
While one respondent highlighted this was a functional and targeted grant, they also recommended that it 'adapt gradually' to meet future requirements, such as support of sustainable land use, reducing GHG emissions and protecting the natural environment.
Sustainable Agricultural Capital Grants Scheme (SACGS)
A few respondents commented on SACGS. Two praised it as enabling business to purchase items and equipment with long-term benefits to the environment. They also noted it generated an increased pace of change for business that would have been slower to respond without funding. A few provided the following criticism of the program:
- The funded equipment maintained high-input, intensive farming systems that were not universally useful to all farm types and locations.
- Smaller enterprises faced difficulty in accessing the scheme.
- Initial timescales were restrictive.
- Initial rigid cash flow commitments deterred applicants.
- Shortages in the supply of funded equipment.
Respondents suggested there be a major review of the scheme and that in the future the deployment was managed in a clear and controlled way.
Food Processing and Marketing Grant Scheme (FPMG)
One respondent noted that the scheme only funds large food processors who were located far from farms. Another suggested the budget be increased as the current limit was insufficient to stimulate innovation.
The EU "Fruit and Veg Aid" Scheme
This scheme was highlighted as very successful in transforming the Scottish fruit and vegetable industry by one respondent, who also recommended it be extended to farmers of potatoes and cereal.
Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS)
This scheme was lauded for promoting environmentally friendly land use by one respondent. However, they also believed it could put a greater emphasis on improving soil health and create pathways to skills training and knowledge sharing.
Forestry Grant Scheme (FSG)
One respondent noted that this scheme did not appropriately facilitate the integration of trees into farming systems.
Q3.2: What actions would be required by the farming and crofting sectors to deliver a significant increase in biodiversity and wider-environmental benefits to address the biodiversity crisis?
Less common mentioned actions to address the biodiversity crisis
- Leave stubble fields over winter.
- Consider land sharing/sparing.
- Sequestration including reed beds in areas of water.
- Introduce new, native or rare breeds of livestock.
- Reduced use of farm machinery/vehicles or purchasing more efficient vehicles/machinery.
- Deer management activities.
- Decrease the size of individual fields.
- Learn lessons from activities in the past that promoted biodiversity.
- Reduce muirburn.
- Lessen the use of slurry.
- Combine solar PV installation with continued access for grazing.
- Minimise waste.
- Introducing vertical farming methods.
- Reduce muck spreading.
- Appoint a member of staff with responsibility for biodiversity.
Other ideas that a few respondents suggested could help farms and crofts to enhance biodiversity include the following:
- Raising awareness and understanding of the need for and benefits of change among the public and farmers.
- Stronger legislative action from government to, for example, ban pesticides.
- Addressing challenges around public access to agricultural land and the impact of this, particularly dog walking, on biodiversity.
- Zoning of farms to give priority to nature in more areas.
Q4.1: What do you see as the main opportunities for crofters, farmers and land managers in a Just Transition to a net zero economy?
Some respondents at Q4.1 suggested ways in which agriculture could contribute to a Just Transition. Most of these suggestions have been covered in detail at other questions, and so a brief summary of these comments is provided below.
Several respondents emphasised that farmers, crofters and land managers could use their land differently to promote biodiversity. Suggestions included integrated land management initiatives such as planting trees on agricultural land, establishing hedgerows and contributing to peatland restoration.
Carbon sequestration was highlighted by some respondents. A few noted that farms and crofts already absorb carbon through soil, grass, trees, hedgerows and animals. Others felt that farmers, crofters and land managers could do more in this respect, by planting more trees and hedgerows, for example.
Another theme identified by some respondents was collaboration among farmers, crofters and land managers. Respondents noted it could be beneficial to share learning and to work together towards a Just Transition.
Less commonly mentioned ways to contribute to a Just Transition
- The potential for farms and crofts to produce renewable energy using wind, solar, hydro or wave power, and/or hydrogen.
- Reduced use of fertiliser, pesticides, other chemicals and plastics.
- Use of electric/green vehicles.
- Encouraging native breeds.
- Using less ruminant livestock to reduce methane production.
- Replacing wire fences with natural boundaries or dry stone walls.
- Careful soil management.
- Opportunities for new entrants to contribute to a Just Transition through contract farming or share farming agreements.
Q4.2: What do you see as the main barriers for farmers, crofters and land managers in a Just Transition to a net zero economy?
Less commonly mentioned barriers
Other barriers raised by respondents, from most to least frequently mentioned, included:
- A perception in the agriculture sector that it is being blamed for climate change when many farmers are already taking steps, more so than some other sectors, to help the environment.
- The lack of time that farmers have, and the barriers that this can pose to changing the status quo.
- The increased workload associated with changing practices and lack of staff to support the transition.
- A perception that there is a disproportionate focus on tree planting and forestry at the expense of other actions that can be taken to contribute to a Just Transition.
- Limited evidence as to which activities or adaptations are most effective.
- The need for collaboration among farmers to share learning.
- Scotland's climate, with a short growing season and unpredictable adverse weather that can affect farm production.
- Difficulties in accessing critical infrastructure locally such as abattoirs and recycling plants.
- The danger of being unable to compete on price with imports from countries with less stringent environmental requirements.
- Restrictions caused by planning regulations.
- Shortages of materials and resources including land.
- Difficulties in operating without the use of fertiliser and pesticides.
- Concerns about meeting demand for food among a growing population if production is reduced.
- Lack of alternatives to fossil fuels for farm machinery.
Q5.1: How best can land use change be encouraged on the scale required for Scottish Government to meet its climate change targets? Please explain your answer.
Less commonly mentioned themes
Other less frequently identified themes were also identified across responses:
- To use legislation, regulation and taxation to encourage land use change. Respondents suggested greater enforcement of wildlife law, greater licencing of unsustainable practices, and a Carbon Emissions Land Tax.
- Better soil management. Suggestions included promoting soil biodiversity, minimum tillage and reducing use of fertiliser and pesticides.
- Calls for collaboration including the importance of talking to and working with farmers and crofters was highlighted. The potential for farmers to work together, and for community-led approaches, were also mentioned.
- Some argued for more rewilding, regenerative or organic farming practices.
- For land use change plans to be informed by careful analysis and 'grounded in science'. There were calls for more research into carbon emissions and sequestration to be undertaken before significant land use changes are made.
- Some expressed a negative view of land use change, for example arguing that land use change is not required on a large scale, or at all. Others felt agriculture was being unfairly targeted, and that carbon emissions from other sectors, particularly transport, should be addressed first. A few argued reduced carbon emissions from agriculture should not be used to offset emissions from other sectors.
Small numbers of respondents each raised the following points:
- The need to change consumer attitudes and behaviour, in particular improved education on food production and asking consumers to pay more.
- For land use change to be measured and monitored effectively, using simple, straightforward data collection processes and better carbon auditing.
- Suggestions for controlling deer, including enforcing maximum numbers or culls.
- General calls for land use decisions to consider long-term food production needs.
- Investing in renewable energy, developing solar, wind and hydro on suitable sites.
- Calls for a clear direction from the Scottish Government, providing the policy and climate change targets, avoiding conflicting land-use policies, and establishing the frameworks and funding to achieve the targets.
- The need for a long-term approach, in both the plans and funding for change.
- Diversification of farm businesses.
- That farmers should decide how their land should be used.
Some respondents suggested other actions which could encourage better land use, improve sequestration or more generally meet climate targets. These included:
- Habitat restoration and the use of marginal or low productivity land for biodiversity.
- Drystone wall repairs or removal to improve efficiency and habitats.
- Drainage to maintain land in good efficient order.
- Supporting native breeds.
- Improved fuel efficiency measures.
- Gene editing of animals and crops to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
- Protecting the rights of tenant farmers, and the continuation of family farms.
- Producing and using local feeds and produce.
- Transition to agroecologically managed livestock.
- Intercropping and polycultures.
- Reduction of off-farm inputs.
- Encouraging short and local supply chains.
Q6.1: Would incentives for farm plans specifically targeting flock/herd heath, soil health, & crop health (for example) demonstrate real improvements in productivity over time? Please explain your answer.
Less commonly mentioned themes
- Some questioned using public funds to incentivise productivity, suggesting there was no need to pay farmers for something that was in their best financial interest.
- A small number felt consumers should be eating less meat or would be eating less meat in the future. They argued that farms should move away from livestock farming in favour of agricultural crops that meet changing consumer demands.
Q6.2: Should future support be dependent on demonstration of improvements in productivity levels on farm? If so, how would this be measured?
Suggested productivity measures
Several respondents suggested categories of productivity to measure. These included:
- Crop output per hectare or per emissions rate.
- Quality of crops and meat; health of crops e.g. consistent crop yields.
- Health and welfare of herds e.g. death rate, days to slaughter, weight at slaughter, fertility indices and medicines usage.
- Efficiency measures e.g. business reviews, farmer quality of life.
- Use of advanced techniques e.g. rotational grazing, drought-tolerant species.
- Soil health figures e.g. VESS (Visual Evaluation of Soil Structure) scoring, lime application, GPS maps of nutrients.
- Enhanced biodiversity indicators.
- Organic farming measures e.g. reduction of fertilisers, insecticides and herbicides.
- Carbon capturing and carbon auditing with baseline emissions measurements.
Research and development
Q7.1: In light of ongoing research activities supported by the Scottish Government and the 2022-2027 research strategy, are additional measures needed to ensure research is supporting the agriculture sector to meet its climate change targets?
Less commonly mentioned themes
- A few respondents noted the need for interdisciplinary and international research exchange. They suggested that governments share data with each other, but also called for collaboration between different research branches such as social, environmental and economic science, to ensure there is a thorough understanding of how to move toward sustainable farming and of how to implement change.
- Support for creating national baselines, data collection and monitoring of implemented changes was considered necessary in the research and development process by a few respondents.
- A small number noted their support for the Farmer Led Groups' suggestions.
- A few respondents expressed a view that funding research and development on greenhouse gas emissions on farms was a waste of public money which should be tackle emissions in more polluting industries.
Knowledge and skills
Q8.2: What form should tailored, targeted action take to help businesses succeed?
Other actions suggested by small numbers of respondents included:
- Funding experimental and innovative pilot projects.
- Industry-wide target-setting and benchmarking.
- Introducing incentives for farmers who participate in CPD and sanctions for those who do not.
- Consultation and research with business owners within the agriculture sector.
- Including farmers in government-level policy planning and strategic decision making.
- More knowledge sharing from academic and research institutions.
- Supporting individual farms to conduct a skills audit; identifying areas where training, upskilling and CPD would be most effective.
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