Summary and recommendation
The National Test Programme is being recommended as, by encouraging environmental baselining by individual businesses, it provides an important voluntary stepping stone for farmers, crofters and land managers as part of the transition towards greater mandatory conditionality which will form part of the new framework for future support. The need for a baseline was one of the key priorities identified both through the wider public consultation and through discussions in the various stakeholder groups. By beginning to establish this through the National Test Programme, in advance of the new Scottish Agriculture Bill and establishment of the long term future rural support framework, the Scottish Government will be able to use the learning, information and evidence gained as part of the development process for these longer term future policies.
Although the 'do nothing' option represents a known quantity in terms of what support is available to individual farmers, crofters and land managers, this is heavily outweighed by the costs of not beginning to trial new forms of support.
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