The Scottish Government has a positive vision for our land based industries - one in which our world-class producers thrive and along with our other land managers contribute to our world-leading climate change agenda and response to the biodiversity crisis.
Farmer Led Groups were established across all sectors- suckler beef, arable, hill, upland 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.
I cannot express how grateful I am to the Farmer Led Groups for the work they undertook, many of which were set up and asked to report in very short order to provide us with the platform to drive forward the necessary changes. The reports from the groups reflect the engagement with the issues they were asked to consider, and demonstrate the willingness to take action that will help deliver the outcomes for climate mitigation and adaptation, nature restoration and high quality food production on which I am focused. I personally want to thank all the Chairs and Group members for the huge amount of time and resource they committed to this work, not forgetting the very many people who provided evidence to the groups in writing and in person.
This Government was elected on a manifesto that made the following commitments:
"We will support farmers to produce more of our own food needs sustainably and to farm and croft with nature, including through enhanced animal welfare and health approaches and better adoption and deployment of technology and innovation, as recommended by the recent work of farmer-led groups set up in the last parliament. A single implementation board with representation from all farming sectors and types will be established to drive this work forward."
Recognising the importance of the Farmer Led Group work, our 100 days document set out that we will:
"Establish the integrated implementation board to develop new proposals for sustainable farming support and drive forward the recommendations of the farmer-led groups. This will include consulting on proposals for a sustainable suckler beef scheme."
I have established an integrated Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) as set out our manifesto commitments, to help us achieve these aims and to develop new proposals for sustainable farming support. This paper plays a crucial first step to help that group drive forward and advance the recommendations made by the Farmer Led Groups. Over the coming months we will undertake a fully participative approach to this consultation, including a series of workshops to identify the key issues and stimulate further ideas as we develop concrete proposals for a replacement to Common Agricultural Policy. This will reflect and build on the work of the Farmer Led Groups to ensure the needs of our communities and our environment are fully met.
We know that we can only deliver the change and the outcomes required by working with and through our producers and land managers. It is their expertise that will ensure that actions are achievable and that support truly delivers sustainable food production and the necessary land use change.
A citizen-centred approach is at the very core of our thinking. We will carry out rigorous and robust research with those farmers land managers and rural communities impacted by our policies, to ensure that the true needs of our producers and land managers are fully understood. Co-development and co-design with rural partners will be the foundational approach to the development of future support structures and delivery.
I know that this will not be easy and that reaching a common consensus on the right approach forward will require us all to go on what will be a difficult journey together. However, we all know we have to change the way we farm, produce our food and use our land and I am confident that we will be able to collectively deliver and ensure Scottish farming maintains its world leading credentials in an ever-changing environment.
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands