A National Test Programme to start Transforming Agriculture in Scotland
National Test Programme from Spring 2022
Government recognises the need to do more with more urgency and to balance the needs of the whole industry – our national test programme will seek to do so with a twin track approach:
The purpose of Track 1 is to encourage farms to improve their knowledge of current environmental performance and efficiency. Support will incentivise businesses to engage with and adopt measures that will create a baseline of information and understanding in sustainable agriculture. This is an opportunity open to all farmers, crofters and land managers, to enable their businesses to gain an understanding of their own baseline at an individual farm level.
The purpose of Track 2 is to design, test, improve and standardise the tools, support and process necessary to reward farmers, crofters and land managers for the climate and biodiversity outcomes they deliver.
This will create a robust understanding of how new conditions or activities could be applied to future support, and ensure delivery of environmental outcomes in a way that supports sustainable businesses.
Track 2 will include detailed testing of more involved tools and advice that will establish a robust method through which farmers can record the benefits to climate and nature they deliver through their businesses. Once tested these can then be rolled out to all farmers and crofters.
The Programme will begin in 2022 with a phased approach to rolling out measures for current recipients of farm support payments, with the aim that these measures will become a mandatory requirement for accessing support. This will enable the shift to at least half of all payments being made conditional within current payment schemes and will inform design of types and levels of conditionality in future payment schemes.
Already, farmers crofters and land managers have been at the heart of helping to design this twin track approach – our commitment to co-design and co-production will continue as we transition from testing to transforming future rural support. We are also committed to ensuring that information and data will flow smoothly and securely through a future payments system which allows for benchmarking, national baselining, assessment and analysis of success and further learning opportunities and individual business decision making.
In the future, we expect conditionality to apply to key, core themes including:
- greenhouse gas emissions
- biodiversity audits
- soil testing
- nutrient and forage plans and
- animal health and welfare plans
We will encourage farmers and crofters to take action which cuts emissions, enhances biodiversity, and produces more of our food more sustainably.
A key goal for sustainable food production will be to reduce emissions by producing the same output per capita with fewer emissions, not to produce more with the same emissions. By its nature agriculture will always create some biogenic emissions; but it is possible to cut them sharply from current levels while at the same time increasing on-farm carbon sequestration, on-farm biodiversity and maintaining production. While we will seek to maintain overall food production, the balance of what we produce may change as part of our ambition to be a Good Food Nation and to produce and source more of our own food needs locally.
Initially, these themes will be tested in the National Test Programme to explore how best to apply these conditions, ensuring that they deliver towards environmental outcomes and continue to support food production. This will allow for a co-design approach, support a Just Transition, and inform the development of the future support framework.
Behaviour and culture change
Transformation will only happen if everyone who wants to farm in the future understands, knows and practises sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Supporting people to adapt and effect a nationwide cultural change is critical to our success to cut emissions, enhance biodiversity and retain our world class food and drink industry. To achieve this, we will explore how best to enable behaviour and culture change and invest in a range of approaches, including a greater focus on peer-to-peer support. We will also consider the role that area RPID offices might play in the future as one stop shops, providing advice, information and support online and on the ground for farmers, crofters and land managers.
Farmers and crofters have helped shape Scotland's landscape for centuries, accumulating generations of important knowledge and expertise. We know they will now adapt all that they know to help us meet these new challenges They have a huge contribution to make to tackling the climate and nature crises, while continuing to provide the backbone of one of our most important national industries – food and drink. We trust them to help us deliver on all our ambitions for Scotland.
Testing for Sustainable Farming: TSF_Mailbox@gov.scot
Preparing for Sustainable Farming: email@example.com
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