Dairy Sector Climate Change Group minutes: 13 January 2021

Minutes of the first meeting of the Dairy Sector Climate Change Group on 13 January 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Tourism (for the first two agenda items)
  • Jackie McCreery (Chair)
  • Thomas Cameron
  • David Campbell
  • Rory Christie
  • Bryce Cunningham
  • Robert Dodds
  • Paul Grant, Dairy Growth Board
  • Bruce Mackie
  • Tracey Roan
  • Claire Simonetta (for agenda item 5)
  • Sarah Simpson
  • Johnnie Sloan
  • Grant Walker
  • Sally Williams
  • Erlend Wood

Scottish Government Officials:

  • Gregor Caldwell
  • John Kerr
  • Kirsten Beddows
  • Stefan Hoyte

Secretariat – SG Officials

  • Alistair Prior
  • Elizabeth Bauld
  • Derek Wilson
  • Kevin Matheson

Items and actions

Welcome and Introductions

Jackie McCreery opened the meeting, thanking the group for their participation and attendance. She outlined the importance of acting upon the group’s breadth of knowledge to address the climate change issue in the sector from a practical perspective and in a way that will gain buy-in from the sector. It was mentioned that time pressure would be a limiting factor in the type of report that can be produced by mid-March, with the group able only to assemble around three to four meetings in that time. We are asked to draw conclusions but may not necessarily be able to compile a detailed list of proposals.

Scene Setting

Fergus Ewing also expressed his thanks to the group for participation, expressing his enthusiasm for farmer led groups. The requirement to identify business friendly, practical solutions to encourage change throughout the dairy sector in order to meet the now legally binding climate change targets was reiterated. The Cabinet Secretary stressed that farmers devise policy on future support guided by officials and scientists – they need to own the policy. Mr Ewing was confident that farmers would ‘meet the challenge’. The Cabinet Secretary commented that dairy was the latest sector to form a group, the beef sector have the largest emissions and that group was therefore convened first (around 18 months ago) followed by the pig sector. Mr Ewing then highlighted the importance of the producing high quality dairy, whilst improving environmental performance and cutting emissions. It was noted that reliance on food imports is undesirable, and so improving efficiency across the Sector is of great importance.     

Scotland’s Climate Change Targets

Kirsten Beddows delivered a presentation on the Climate Change Plan update, commenting on the current climate reduction targets and acknowledging that the dairy industry contributes significantly to agricultural emissions. It was outlined that the work of the dairy group will directly influence the work of the climate change plan update. She also mentioned the importance of working with the other farmer led groups as baseline conditionalities are likely to be the same across the sectors. It was recognised that policies take time and so work should be front loaded.

Terms of Reference and Purpose 

The group discussed the draft terms of reference. It was noted that the  work of the group was not just about identifying ways to reduce emissions but about sustainability in the round so issues such as carbon sequestration and biodiversity also came into it. The need for support was highlighted as a requirement to assist farmers to get on board with measures such as data collection. The group agreed that other farmer led groups’ proposals should be considered as part of this groups work and that an evidence based approach is required. It was noted that ongoing sustainable food production is key to the work of the group and that that improving productivity and efficiencies should be a key part of the groups remit.

Action – Chair and secretariat to review draft ToR in light of the discussion and send to group for final sign off.

Update on Suckler Beef Climate Group

Claire Simonetta summarised the farmer led Suckler Beef Climate Group, noting the importance of initial meetings to direct and outline a route of travel. The group have moved on to the second phase of work through an Implementation board that is working on three  3 components for a future scheme; minimum scheme requirements, capital grant funding and management options. Claire noted that the minimum scheme requirements are non-sector specific, and so recommended that the dairy group should review the report’s recommendations. It was noted that the chairs of the various farmer led groups will liaise and share ideas and progress of the work of their respective groups with each other

Note – following the meeting the Secretariat provided an abridged version of the Suckler Beef report to the group.

Dairy Growth Board Ambition 2030 Update

Paul Grant updated the group on the updated  2030 strategy for the Dairy sector which is due to be launched in March this year.  Their proposals and recommendations cover the full dairy supply chain and looks to build on best practise learnt over the past 5 years and how best to exploit new market opportunities.  A key aspect will be building an identifiable point of difference for Scottish dairy that can be marketable.  Paul hopes that this approach will be complementary to the group and that it is vital that work of the groups is aligned. He noted that the DGB report will be calling for annual independent assessment programmes for participating dairy farms that will aims to reduce the Carbon emissions from dairy cattle.

Action – Paul Grant to provide, via the secretariat, copy of the report once formally approved by the DGB board.

Evidence and Research

Ally McAlpine gave key insights into the research and academic support which would be available to the group. He outlined that RESAS would offer support to provide evidence to the group through a work programme which would cover all the farmer led groups. He also asked for suggestions of research topics of interest to the group, bearing in mind the short timescales.

Action – SG RESAS to provide research proposal to the group on available support

Action – SG RESAS to provide overview summary of the dairy sector in Scotland

Action – SG RESAS to provide information on current emissions from the dairy sector

Action – SG RESAS to consider possible options for literature review and high level documents that can be circulated to the group

General Discussion and next steps

The group discussed various issues based on the information presented throughout the meeting and possible next steps:

It was agreed that it is essential to baseline current emissions from the sector and identify where opportunities exist for improvements (information from SG RESAS will assist with this work)

Noted that the group should review the suggestion of the Suckler Beef group to introduce conditionality entry level requirements and suggestions for new management options applicable for the dairy sector

Noted that market requirements will play a huge part in determining how the dairy sector responds to the challenges ahead and that any future government scheme will need to take this into account. The group was mindful there should be some assurance that farmers will see a benefit from climate change gains.   

Part of the groups’ proposal has to support co-operation between farmers to encourage improvement – the group noted that it will be important that best practice is shared throughout the group and that there is resources in place to do so.  Isolation and lack of access to support mechanism could lead to this the sector losing members.

The proposals made by the group must build in with existing and up-coming legislation.

Any Other Business

The group agreed that the remit would be reviewed and circulated round the group, and that relevant  experts should be invited to attend the next meeting.

Action – Chair and Secretariat to agree agenda and speakers for the next meeting

Date of Next Meetings:

  • 26th January 2021 from 16:00 – 18:30
  • 11th February 2021 from 14:00 – 16:30


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