11. Integrated Approach
This is not a single sector issue and very few farms have only one output. The outcomes and solutions will be interlinked. This report must link together with other farmer-led groups and provide momentum for a whole industry approach. We must also recognise that a focus on climate change must be viewed in the wider context of sustainability, including biodiversity, animal welfare, water quality, rural employment and supply chain viability.
The Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan update (CCPu) recently identified 6 outcomes for Scottish Agriculture. These outcomes are not sector specific and will involve an integrated approach from the whole industry if we are to deliver. We have identified that in respect of all proposed outcomes, every sector should have commonality of objective and approach. Any agricultural policy and funding programme which replaces the CAP should build upon the farmer led initiative and be developed in partnership with the whole industry and be as inclusive as possible from the outset.
Outcome 1 - Productive, sustainable agriculture sector: Across all sectors of agriculture, there is need for an optimum level of production to be achieved which addresses GHG emissions targets but also maintains critical mass so that the whole infrastructure around Scottish agriculture is maintained and secures the future of the food and drink industry in this country. Any policy which would simply reduce livestock numbers as a means of achieving emissions reduction targets is not an option because this risks simply importing protein products to feed the nation from countries, many of whom are less suited to producing the products and in turn more damaging to the climate. Cattle numbers can be reduced through the multiple efficiencies and productivity measures that are well documented by SRUC and others and summarised in this and the other farmer led group reports. Enterprises should, however, have the ability and support to grow in a sustainable way with increased awareness and focus on carbon sequestration measures and biodiversity as well as embracing all available technology as it emerges.
Outcome 2 – Awareness of farmers: Very few farming enterprises are single sector so this element of upskilling farmers must be totally inclusive from the outset to maximise impact. Farming advisers should also be upskilled so training of farm advisers, SGRPID staff, consultants and others should be a priority.
Outcome 3 – Nitrogen emissions: One factor that is common across all sector of agriculture is dependence on the land and our soils. Reducing emissions of nitrogen therefore warrants an integrated approach. Measures such as conservation tillage techniques, precision farming, nitrogen use efficiency, soil testing, and new crop varieties all have cross sectoral significance and should therefore be implemented in an integrated way.
Outcome 4 - Reduced Emissions from meat and dairy: A collaborative approach is essential, involving cross sector bodies such as QMS, ScotEID, Red Tractor, AHDB etc. We must also work with the supply chains to avoid duplication of effort as they seek to deliver on SECR (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting) – Scope 3 and reporting emissions of their suppliers, with government taking a role in facilitating this collaboration. The baseline will provide the springboard from which the industry can measure its progress. Peer benchmarking of performance and sharing of best practice will be key drivers to success. Emissions efficiency should drive the reduction in emissions. Scotland should not seek to export its emissions when it has the ability to provide a growing global population with climate efficient protein sources.
Outcome 5 – Reduced emissions form manure/slurry: The livestock sectors can contribute most to this outcome by adopting specific management practices which reduce emissions. However, it is collective solutions between sectors that also need to be explored. An integrated programme for delivery of these outcomes should be flexible enough to allow enterprises to adopt mitigation measures and techniques which apply to their enterprises.
Outcome 6 – Carbon Sequestration: Soils hold three times the amount of carbon currently in the atmosphere or almost four times the amount held in living matter. Because soils have such a large storage capacity, enhancing soil storage by even a few percentage points makes a big difference. There are knowledge gaps and challenges that hinder the upscaling and widespread deployment of soil carbon management, as acknowledged by the IPPC, and addressing these issues must be an urgent priority. In the interim, implementing measures known to deliver positive outcomes in soil carbon sequestration should be the focus.
Land use change may be a challenging area for farmers and government to tackle but it is an issue which must be debated and discussed within the joint implementation group. There is wide support for agroforestry and where this can complement productivity and optimise use of land across the country. There must also be acknowledgement of the contribution of agriculture to land use change gains within the smart inventory under the LULUCF sector (Land use, Land use change and Forestry).
We urge government to support exploration of public/private partnerships which allow farmers to benefit from the Corporate Social Responsibility and sustainability agendas of private businesses and the opportunities for carbon credits within agriculture.
Photo credit @ScotGovClimate