Climate Change Plan: third report on proposals and policies 2018-2032 (RPP3)

This plan sets out the path to a low carbon economy while helping to deliver sustainable economic growth and secure the wider benefits to a greener, fairer and healthier Scotland in 2032.

Chapter 7 Agriculture

The agriculture sector includes activities related to livestock production and cultivation of land for food or energy crops.

Agriculture also contributes to climate change mitigation through areas that are not defined as agriculture in the Climate Change Plan. The sector provides benefits to land use and forestry through contributing to and managing a significant part of Scotland's national carbon sink. Around 73% of Scotland's land area is designated as agricultural [142] making its contribution to these areas crucial, as is the role that the industry plays in taking forward environmental and biodiversity actions, with farmers actively engaged in agri-environment schemes and with other public bodies such as SEPA on improving water quality and flood management. Agriculture also contributes to the decarbonisation of Scotland's energy sector through the production of renewable energy, with the largest proportion of operational community and locally owned capacity being located on Scottish farms and estates.

Where We Are Now

  • 25.8% fall in agriculture sector emissions between 1990 and 2015

The Agriculture and Related Land Use sector as defined in the GHG inventory has seen a fall of 3.8 MtCO 2e (25.8%) in emissions between 1990 and 2015, reducing them to 10.8 MtCO 2e (the definition of the sector used by TIMES shows the decline between 1990 and 2015 levels to be 14% [143] ). This fall is mostly attributable to four factors:

  • efficiency improvements in farming, such as higher milk yields per cow
  • fewer cattle and sheep
  • a reduction in the amount of nitrogen fertiliser being applied
  • a reduction in grassland being ploughed for arable production

Almost half of the global warming impact of emissions from agriculture is from methane, which has 25 times the global warming effect of carbon dioxide, and around a quarter is from nitrous oxide, which has 298 times the warming effect of carbon dioxide. The types of gases and their high level impact is why agriculture differs from other sectors where the main GHG emitted is carbon dioxide. This means that what is required of agriculture is different to other sectors.

GHG emissions are inherent in food production due to biological processes and chemical interactions in both livestock and plant growth. In the future, uncertainties around Brexit, growing populations and increasing pressures throughout the economy and the rising cost of living may increase the tension between climate change mitigation and providing food security. A fine balance must therefore be found to ensure GHG reduction can take place while Scotland continues to produce secure and sustainable food.

Progress Since RPP2

Doubling the number of Climate Change Focus Farms in Farming for a Better Climate from four to eight

Nine new Focus Farmers were engaged and are currently part of Farming for a Better Climate ( FFBC). Evidence on the impact of the policy suggests that farmers who engage with it find it valuable, but not enough are aware of it. We now have a policy to extend FFBC to enable more farmers to benefit from the lessons learned.

F igure 19: Agriculture historical emissions [144]
igure 19: Agriculture historical emissions

90% uptake of fertiliser efficiency measures

This proposal has been superseded by the requirement for nutrient management planning on grassland as a result of the Common Agricultural Policy ( CAP) Greening and the work we will undertake through policy outcome 2 of this plan.

Developments in agricultural technologies post 2020

Advancements in agricultural technologies are gathering pace and it is now one of the fastest growing global markets, drawing the attention of not only the more traditional agricultural equipment companies but of companies that have been leading the technological journey across other sectors. Scotland is ideally placed to fully embrace this field as it is home to some of the most innovative and creative farmers, crofters and land managers and a world renowned scientific community. Technology has the ability to increase production values while improving efficiency and reducing climatic and environmental impacts. What we want to achieve is to maximise these opportunities and ensure that Scottish agriculture is at the forefront of this ever developing and growing market.

Our Ambition

Figure 20: Agriculture Emissions Envelopes
Figure 20: Agriculture Emissions Envelopes

Agriculture emissions will fall by 9% (0.8 MtCO 2e) over the lifetime of the Plan. Low carbon farming is not only good for the planet, but also good for food producers' pockets. We want Scotland to be a world-class producer of high quality food: sustainably, profitably and efficiently in environmental and economic terms. The farming and food production sector is

central to achieving this ambition. Change will only happen with the involvement of primary food producers, so we will work with the sector, to generate solutions to barriers that present themselves such as those for tenant farmers, to recognise and realise the economic and environmental benefits of low carbon farming.

In the Agriculture Sector

  • by 2020, the efficient use of nitrogen fertilizer will increase by helping farmers to identify the pH of the soil on a third of their improved land
  • by 2020, we will have encouraged farmers producing a substantial proportion of Scotland's agricultural output to have completed a carbon audit
  • by 2030 most farmers will know the nutrient value of their improved soil and will be implementing best practice in nutrient management and application
  • by 2050 Scottish farmers will be making full use of technology to apply precision farming techniques

Due to the relationship between GHG emissions and all food production, and the need to address the unique nature of Scotland's land capabilities – with only 8% of agricultural land considered "prime land" [145] , capable of supporting a wide range of crops, and the majority of the remaining land considered "rough grazing", land with severe limitations on what it can support and produce – our focus needs to be on maximising efficiency. This can be achieved by taking a holistic approach to protecting and enhancing our soil, optimising land use, tackling livestock disease, utilising the latest technology, maximising input efficiency and turning wastes into resources. The proposals and policies in this chapter take forward the position that was set out in "Getting the Best From our Land – a Land Use Strategy for Scotland 2016–2021" for agriculture.

These actions will achieve GHG emissions reductions. They can also generate improvements in animal health and welfare, provide cleaner water and air, improve soil quality while increasing the volume of our national carbon sink, increase biodiversity and give farmers more financial security.

Case Study

John Kerr at the Woodhead farm near Newmilns
John Kerr at the Woodhead farm near Newmilns.

Credit: Farming For a Better Climate

Woodhead Farm, near Newmilns in Ayrshire is a 180 cow dairy, owned and run by John Kerr and his family. Woodhead is one of nine farms across Scotland participating in the Scottish Government's Farming for a Better Climate Focus Farms initiative.

Over a three year period, host focus farmers work with SAC Consulting to identify and implement a range of practical low or no-cost mitigation measures suitable for implementation on the host farm. The focus farms also host regular discussion group meetings to share and further develop these ideas with other working farmers.

Through participation in the focus farm programme with SAC Consulting, John Kerr has been able to identify a range of measures that can benefit his farm business and reduce carbon emissions. Woodhead farm has made the following improvements:

  • Assessment of pH across the farm has been carried out and helped to develop a programme for remediation.
  • Assessment of soil nutrients, slurry use and targeted application, as part of the farm nutrient management plan, allowed for more efficient use of fertilisers.
  • A biomass boiler has been installed to produce heat from woodchip. This reduced electricity use by 32%.
  • Renewed focus on grazing and paddock management has increased utilisation and production of grass. Silage quality has improved, leading to an estimated saving of £120 per cow per winter.
  • Calf housing has been improved, which has led to better animal survival rates, and improved milk cooling processes have reduced electricity use.
  • Improved cow housing, including flexible lighting control and better ventilation, reduced energy bills and continues to positively influence animal health.

We will continue to work with Scotland's agricultural sector and our world renowned scientific community through the Strategic Research Programme and an ad-hoc research budget available to us of around £65,000 per annum as we strive to turn best practice into standard practice. We will continue to lead in promoting behavioural change towards low carbon farming as we have done through the establishment of the Beef Efficiency Scheme [146] and our support for Agri-Environment Schemes by ensuring that high quality advice, information and on farm demonstrations are available through the Farm Advisory Service [147] and Farming for a Better Climate. We will support peer to peer knowledge exchange and innovation from within the sector through the Monitor Farm Network [148] , the Soil Nutrient Network [149] and other support mechanisms.

By 2020, to help increase the efficient use of nitrogen fertiliser, the Scottish Government will continue to work with farmers so that they know the pH of the soil on a third of their improved land, and that they are applying fertilisers in an efficient manner. By making farmers aware of the benefits that can be gained from optimal levels for pH and other essential nutrients, they can develop a targeted nutrient management plan aimed at maximising productivity and minimising the need for expensive inputs, while reducing GHG emissions. Primary food producers need to know how to cut their overall carbon footprint and to understand that doing so will also improve their profitability.

By 2020, we will have encouraged farmers producing a substantial proportion of Scotland's agricultural output to have completed a carbon audit. Due to the high quality advice and information that has been made available, many farmers will also know and understand the sources of GHG emissions from farming activities and we expect them to be taking action to reduce these. We will be monitoring progress towards this as we continue to evaluate our approach. Most livestock farmers will also be taking new steps to improve the health of their herd, to improve fertility, reduce mortality and tackle production diseases.

By 2030, most farmers will know the nutrient value of their improved soil and will be implementing best practice in nutrient management and application. The Scottish Government will have engaged with the agriculture sector to encourage optimisation of land use, which can include increased planting of woodland/forestry and hedgerows and the restoration of peatlands on appropriate agricultural land. This encouragement will include the dissemination of information on the related economic benefits of good silvo-management practices.

By 2050, Scottish farmers will be making full use of technology to apply precision farming techniques across the board, and Scotland's land will be producing sustainable, healthy, nutritious and high quality food while providing a substantial contribution to Scotland's national carbon sink that offsets emissions elsewhere in our economy.

Policy Outcomes, Policies, Development Milestones and Proposals

Policy outcome 1:

More farmers, crofters, land managers and other primary food producers are aware of the benefits and practicalities of cost-effective climate mitigation measures and uptake will have increased.

There are three policies, two policy development milestones and one proposal which will contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 1.

Policies which contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 1

1) The dissemination of information and advice on climate change mitigation measures in agriculture through a range of communication methods utilising technology and all media to best effect.

The Scottish Government will support the provision of high quality advice to all farmers, crofters and land managers on cost-effective mitigation measures through the Farm Advisory Service, Farming for a Better Climate ( FFBC) [150] , the Monitor Farm network and the Soil Nutrient Network and stakeholder organisations, but these will be expanded, principally by:

  • Increasing FFBC's reach within the industry through expanded communications work, and we may extend funding if there is demand. To ensure its success and measure its impact, an evaluation of this programme has begun with initial results due in 2018. FFBC works with a group of focus farmers to increase the efficiency of their business, while simultaneously decreasing its carbon footprint. It then provides farmers across Scotland with free advice through on-farm demonstrations via open days and farm visits and by using the lessons learned on each focus farm to create guides, case studies and technical notes at a cost of around £375,000 each year.
  • Continuing our commitment to working with the industry by providing funding support of around £150,000 for the further development of an industry-led carbon accumulator tool that for the first time will allow farmers to measure and get credit for reducing emissions and sequestering carbon, in areas such as soils, forestry and renewable energy generation.
  • Working with the Farm Advisory Service to help it provide high-quality advice on on-farm mitigation measures, fund around 1,200 free carbon audits, provide integrated land management plans and continue to support business efficiency and viability.
  • Determining the feasibility of a Farming and Food roadshow. The purpose of this would be to share information with farmers and the public on the climate change issues in food and farming at agricultural shows and science events.
  • Enabling dissemination of specific advice and practical demonstrations on mitigation measures, such as conservation tillage and variable rate fertiliser and lime spreading, to farmers through the Monitor Farm Network, the Soil Nutrient Network, Farming for a Better Climate and others by providing continued support.
  • Continuing to investigate the possibilities to maximise climate change benefits from existing support mechanisms.

2) An agri-tech group will be established to share, disseminate and encourage adoption of advances in agricultural science and technology as widely as possible.

In order to complement and maximise the potential of agri-technologies and other policy initiatives such as the UK agri-tech strategy in Scotland, we will create a group of experts including technology and data providers, industry representatives and scientists. The aim of this group will be to share learning on advances in agriculture technology, to enable farmers in Scotland to utilise the most appropriate tools, techniques and equipment to optimise crop yield and reduce their emissions intensity. Support of around £5,000 will be provided for this group.

3) Young Farming Climate Change Champions will be recruited and trained to explain, promote and encourage low carbon farming.

We will work with the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs ( SAYFC) to recruit volunteer Young Farming Climate Change Champions who will be trained to explain, promote and encourage low carbon farming among their peers with the associated cost estimated at around £50,000.

Peer to peer learning, which can result in behavioural change at a social level, has an important role to play in increasing the level of understanding of low carbon farming practices within the next generation of famers.

Policy development milestones

1) Carbon Audits: in 2018, we will consult on how best to ensure maximum take up of carbon audits and how to enable tenant farmers and crofters in particular to benefit.

Carbon audits have proved to be an effective tool for highlighting cost-effective ways to reduce emissions and as such were made a requirement of the Beef Efficiency Scheme with over 1,000 Scottish beef farmers already going through the process. Our consultation will ask how best to ensure maximum take up of carbon audits, especially among tenant farmers and crofters. The results of this consultation will be used to inform future policy as we continue to pursue all avenues to reduce emissions within agriculture.

2) We will explore with Scottish Tenant Farmers Association how best to engage tenant farmers to increase understanding of the environmental and economic benefits of low carbon farming.

The aim will be to determine what policies, support and advice tenant farmers need to undertake measures which will help them reduce emissions at farm level.

Policy proposal

1) Marketing scheme: Determine the feasibility of a Low Carbon Farming marketing scheme.

Farmers will be more likely to apply low carbon farming techniques if they can achieve a market premium for their product. In addition, through the policies in this Plan and our existing environmental requirements, farms in Scotland will be producing some of the lowest carbon food in the world. We therefore propose to explore a marketing scheme that would generate recognition among consumers and increase demand for food produced using low carbon methods, similar to Origin Green [151] in Ireland. This work will take into account contributions that could be made from established marketing schemes.

Policy outcome 2:

Emissions from nitrogen fertiliser will have fallen through a combination of improved understanding, efficient application and improved soil condition

There are three policies and two proposals which will contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 2.

Policies which contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 2

1) Communicate and demonstrate the benefits of precision farming and nitrogen use efficiency in order to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions.

This will be achieved through communication and demonstration of the emissions reduction and economic benefits of precision farming and nitrogen use efficiency in case studies, practical guides and on-farm demonstrations. The use of techniques such as variable rate fertiliser and lime spreading and GPS soil testing can lower the amount of excess nitrogen applied to fields. This in turn can reduce the GHG emissions as well as reducing risk of nitrates entering watercourses through run off and limit the impacts on air quality through reduced ammonia emissions. Delivery of this information will be through the Farm Advisory Service, Farming for a Better Climate, the Monitor Farm network, the Soil Nutrient Network and other stakeholder organisations.

2) Work with the agriculture and science sectors regarding the feasibility and development of a SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound) target for reducing Scotland's emissions from nitrogen fertiliser.

Any target that may be set must be evidence based and relevant to Scottish soils and allow them to produce an economically optimal crop yield. Therefore the future work on a target shall take into account essential factors like good practice in soil management as well as other environmental and climatic constraints such as soil type, rainfall and topography.

3) From 2018 we expect farmers to test the soil on all improved land every five or six years, and we will work with them to establish how best to achieve this.

Information, advice, and practical demonstrations on the benefits of soil testing will be delivered through the Farm Advisory Service, Farming for a Better Climate, the Monitor Farm network, the Soil Nutrient Network and other stakeholder organisations in order to achieve reductions. The minimum that farmers should test for is pH, however we will consult on how to increase uptake of testing for this and other nutrients, including potassium and phosphorus, as well as other indicators of good soil condition, such as organic matter content.

Wormiston farm, an upland mixed beef and sheep farm, was able to save an estimated £1,421 on spring barley production and an estimated £4,088 on silage production [152] . This has been through testing their soils' nutrient levels and structure, and by establishing good nutrient management practices (including maximising the use of organic manures that were available).

Policy proposals

1) Investigate the benefits and barriers of leguminous crops in rotation.

Legumes in rotation can reduce the need to apply synthetic nitrogen fertiliser through maximising atmospheric nitrogen fixation. However, there are considerable environmental and economic factors to consider such as land capabilities, topography, rainfall, soil type, availability of markets and new management techniques that may require significant outlay on equipment. We will explore the various opportunities and any potential drawbacks of creating a requirement that arable land has to include a leguminous crop in rotation, including any incentives that farmers would require for doing so.

2) Crop varieties with improved nitrogen-use efficiency.

We will continue to monitor for the establishment of new breeding goals and the development of breeding programmes looking at nitrogen-use efficiency. Crops which can provide an optimal yield with reduced nitrogen needs will allow for a reduction in the need for synthetic fertilisers while increasing Scotland's food security. However, the development and establishment of new breeding goals and programmes can be a long term process and this has to be considered when developing policy instruments.

We will also explore the benefits that can be gained through looking at traditional and native varieties such as bere barley, small oat and certain wheats. These types of native plant are referred to as being types of Scottish landraces as they have adapted over time to local environmental conditions throughout Scotland.

Policy outcome 3:

Reduced emissions from red meat and dairy through improved emissions intensity.

There are two policies, two development milestones and one proposal which will contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 3.

Policies which contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 3

1) Commission and publish a report into the establishment of emissions intensity figures for beef, lamb and milk.

In order to reduce the carbon footprint of the food we produce, we need to lower the emissions associated with each kilo of beef, lamb or crops, and each litre of milk without reducing the amount of food we produce. The Scottish Government will publish work on metrics that will allow us to measure these figures. The work that has been commissioned on emissions intensity is based on the data that is currently collected and available and as such places no additional burden on the agricultural sector.

2) Work with Quality Meat Scotland, ScotEID [153] and livestock producers to encourage improved emissions intensity through genotyping, improving fertility, reducing animal mortality and improving on farm management practices.

By making improvements in fertility, reducing mortality and management practices the livestock sector can generate products that have a lower emissions intensity. The work of the Beef Efficiency Scheme is addressing the role of genotyping and the Farm Advisory Service and Farming for a Better Climate continue to offer high quality advice and information. The Scottish Government also continues to support industry lead innovation in this area through mechanisms such as the Scottish Rural Development Programme's Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund [154] .

Policy development milestones

1) Determine the practicality of establishing a SMART target for reduction in the intensity of emissions for beef, sheep and dairy sectors.

Once the work on emissions intensity has been completed (see policy 1 for outcome 3 above) this will allow work to begin in order to determine the practicalities of using emissions intensity data to set industry targets for Scotland agricultural produce.

2) Consult in 2018 to determine the nature of livestock health measures that the sector will adopt from 2019.

Animal health and welfare can have an effect on the levels of GHG emissions that are emitted by agriculture. Healthier animals tend to grow faster and require fewer inputs all of which will reduce the emissions intensity per kg of meat or litre of milk that they produce. The Scottish Government has previously conducted research on animal health and GHG reductions and opened discussions with industry and will ensure that the cost benefits of any interventions is understood, the economic implications of different disease management approaches are taken into consideration and the effectiveness of knowledge exchange methods are evaluated. In order to find a consensus on the type of scheme to be implemented a consultation will take place including four possible options before any measure is agreed:

  • The establishment of one or more mandatory disease eradication schemes. This would place requirements on farmers to control the disease, similar to what the Scottish Government has done for Bovine Viral Diarrhoea ( BVD).
  • The establishment of one or more schemes focused on syndromes rather than diseases, such as calf/lamb mortality or infertility.
  • Vet-approved health plans.
  • Using market forces by requiring testing and declaration before sale of the most important production diseases.

Policy proposal

1) Determine the practicalities and feasibility of using livestock feed additives as a means of reducing emissions.

There is evidence that suggests a wide range of feed additives may have a positive impact in reducing methane emissions from enteric fermentation. We will commission and publish work on reducing emissions by including lipids (fats) in rations, and in future through new additives not yet ready for market. Further research will be undertaken to establish logistical and supply chain issues such as consumer response, land-use implications from creating the additives, and handling, transportation and storage issues. This research will provide the information needed to understand how best to address the potential that feed additives may have here in Scotland.

Policy outcome 4:

Reduced emissions from the use and storage of manure and slurry.

There are two policy development milestones and three proposals which will contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 4.

Policy development milestones

1) Determine the potential feasibility of self-financing large-scale slurry and manure fed anaerobic digesters.

We will determine the feasibility of one or more viable large-scale anaerobic digestion ( AD) plants, mostly using slurry and other wastes as feedstock, accounting for end-to-end issues such as use of digestate, grid connection, feedstock availability and address any potential concerns or unintended consequences.

2) Engaging with farmers to explore their support requirements, establish how they can improve the use and storage of manure and slurry, including the potential for co-operatively owned and managed anaerobic digesters.

We will determine the feasibility of creating a number of cooperatives of around ten farms each to operate viable AD plant, mostly using slurry and other waste as feedstock. A potential model for this cooperative would involve one farmer being responsible for the management of the AD plant as well as transport of feedstock and digestate, backed by a maintenance contract. We will encourage use of CARES funding to maximise community benefit. The number, location and timing of these will depend on factors such as planning permission and financing.

Policy proposals

1) Investigate the practicalities of livestock grazing in rotation on current arable land.

Initial evidence suggests emissions reductions could be delivered by restoring the traditional practice of livestock grazing on arable land. Having livestock in the fields between crops would provide the soil with a supply of organic manure which can reduce the amount of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser needed while improving the soils health and condition as well as increasing the level of carbon that is stored with in it. Further work is required to consider associated emissions and practicalities such as infrastructure, biosecurity and husbandry skills that would be vital to any arable farm bringing in livestock.

2) Conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of manure/slurry exchange.

Evidence suggests that moving manure or slurry from cattle farms to arable farms could be a cost-effective option that delivers abatement through a reduced need to use chemical fertilisers. We will conduct a feasibility study to consider logistics, demand, and the potential for abatement when considering storage requirements and transport.

3) Determine how to consistently minimise emissions from slurry storage.

This can be achieved by methods such as fixed roofs, slurry bags or floating covers. Initial evidence suggests the cost is high and the amount of abatement low, and there are significant potential health and safety and environmental issues to overcome. However, further evidence is required and we will commission and publish work looking at the best available technologies for both storage and application in a Scottish context as well as further internal investigation into existing and future support options.

Policy outcome 5:

Carbon sequestration on agricultural land has helped to increase our national carbon sink.

There is one policy and two proposals that contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 5.

Policy which contributes to the delivery of policy outcome 5

1) Explore with the farming and forestry sectors how best to increase planting of trees and hedgerows which optimise carbon sequestration, including the role of agroforestry.

We intend to encourage the uptake of these behaviours by informing and advising the farming sector, through the Farm Advisory Service and other stakeholder organisations, of the multiple benefits of trees/woodland and hedgerows on farm land. We will promote initiatives such as Sheep and Trees, a scheme designed to integrate the benefits of trees with upland sheep farming, and the Woodland Carbon Code, which allows farmers to be paid directly for the amount of carbon being stored within their trees.

Poicy proposals

1) Investigate the feasibility of payment for carbon sequestration taking into account any existing schemes such as the woodland carbon code as a means of encouraging the uptake of carbon sequestration on farms.

We will explore the possibilities of expanding and building upon mechanisms such as the Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code, which pay farmers and other land managers to sequester carbon in woodland/forestry and peatland. A similar scheme that would allow farmers and land managers to benefit from payments for carbon sequestered in their soils could play a major role in working towards our climate mitigation targets. This has been a long-term ambition in many countries but working examples are very rare.

2) Woodland cover on suitable agricultural land.

The Scottish Government has ambitious woodland creation targets to contribute towards reducing emissions and agriculture has a role to play in achieving this. Through the Sheep and Trees Initiative we are investigating the benefits of integrating woodland on farm land. Using the Land Capability for Agriculture classification, local Forestry and Woodland Strategies, evidence on flood prevention and other appropriate information we will work with stakeholders to identify areas that have potential for sustainable woodland/forestry creation.


Policy output indicators for policy outcomes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5

1) Our primary output indicator will be the level of emissions from the agriculture sector in the Greenhouse Gas Inventory. This will be underpinned with a particular focus on soil testing and nutrient planning in Scotland. Over the next few years we would expect:

  • A reduction in agricultural greenhouse gas emissions in the national inventory.
  • An increase in the share of farmers carrying out soil tests.
  • An increase in the share of farms completing nutrient management plans.

Implementation indicators for policy outcomes

1) The number of attendees at climate change-themed Farming for a Better Climate and Farm Advisory Service events, who rated them useful and have said they will put what they have learned into practice.

2) The uptake of free carbon audits provided through the Farm Advisory Service – increase the uptake of free carbon audits provided through the Farm Advisory Service to 200 audits delivered per year by 2019.

3) The uptake of Integrated Land Management Plans ( ILMPs) provided through the Farm Advisory Service – increase uptake of Integrated Land Management Plans ( ILMPs) provided through the Farm Advisory Service to 300 ILMPs delivered per year by 2019.

Explanation of selected indicators

Scottish agriculture faces difficult trading conditions caused by the uncertainty surrounding the UK's departure from the European Union. With this Climate Change Plan the Scottish Government is sending strong messages to the agriculture sector that increasing on-farm efficiency can increase profitability through several means: reducing input costs like expensive fertilisers and energy consumption; increasing output through higher yields and healthier livestock making weight quicker; increasing sustainability through improved soil health and condition; and by maximising on farm resources to develop resilience against input price fluctuations.

However, an understanding of the uniqueness of each farm business is imperative as there is no uniform solution. Therefore the Scottish Government has designed this suite of policies, proposals and delivery milestones to empower farmers by giving them access to the high quality information and advice they need to increase efficiency and reduce their carbon footprint across the whole farm. In order to reflect this holistic approach we have selected the national GHG Inventory emissions as a high level output indicator which will be underpinned with a detailed look at soil testing and nutrient management within Scottish agriculture, alongside a range of other data on the uptake of other low carbon farming practices.

Giving farmers, crofters and land managers the information and advice they need to continue to produce food while reducing emissions is the basis of our emissions reduction strategy. Two key drivers for doing this are Farming for a Better Climate ( FFBC) and the Farm Advisory Service ( FAS). Monitoring these programmes will allow us to understand if more farmers, crofters and land managers are accessing them and if our approach is delivering the results that are needed, and, if not, allow us to re-evaluate it.

Additional work on monitoring

We are working to improve the monitoring and evaluation of our Farming for a Better Climate Initiative. A detailed survey will be conducted which follows up with farmers who have made use of the programme. These farmers will act as a treatment group, while an equivalent group of non-users will act as a control group to test the programme's impact. This will test what effect the programme has on user attitude to climate change, and more importantly, their knowledge and uptake of low carbon farming techniques. This work commenced in late 2017.

We will continue to work on establishing a baseline figure for the area of improved land in Scotland that currently undergoes soil testing. We will use this to measure the progress against our future goals for soil testing within the Climate Change Plan.

We have commissioned research to develop a method of calculating an emissions intensity figure for our agricultural produce. This would, for example, estimate the tonnes of CO 2e emitted in the production of a kilogram of meat/crop or litre of milk. The ability to calculate emissions intensity is important, as global food demands are increasing and importing food from overseas from countries that produce food less efficiently than we do may help achieve national emission reduction while damaging global efforts to combat climate change.

Understanding emissions intensity will help us understand our CO 2e efficiency relative to other countries, identify and understand the reason for changes in efficiency, identify areas of potential improvement and establish benchmark levels of efficiency for the future. It will also measure our agricultural emissions more precisely than the GHG inventory, and capture farm efficiency improvements which are typically not captured by the GHG Inventory methodology.

Enabling Factors and Wider Impacts

There are substantial potential economic benefits for farm businesses and for the wider rural economy as a result of the proposals and policies in this Plan. Almost all activities farmers can undertake to reduce emissions also make or save money, what is good for the planet is good for their finances. These activities include: identifying avoidable inefficiencies through carbon audits; reducing fertiliser costs and/or increasing yields though understanding the soil pH and other essential nutrient levels and increasing them where necessary, and through making use of organic fertiliser where practicable; reducing losses in livestock through infertility, mortality and ill health; and through generating income or cutting energy bills by producing renewable heat and electricity and using energy savings schemes.

Benefits to Farmers

  • potential cost-saving benefits for farming businesses: through carbon audits, identifying areas where efficiencies could be improved
  • cost savings from more efficient fertiliser management and increased use of organic fertilisers
  • increased yields through better understanding of nutrient levels
  • reduced losses of livestock through better fertility, lower mortality and ill health
  • reduced energy bills by producing renewable heat and electricity

There are considerable potential benefits for the wider rural community through air and water quality improvements. The improved management of animal stocks and animal waste will reduce odours and ammonia from agricultural land. In addition, reducing diffuse pollution and nutrient leaching will improve the quality of ground and surface water. As well as benefits for animal welfare, soil health, and biodiversity through the policies, the woodland/forestry/carbon sequestration proposal could significantly increase the implementation of natural flood management and the creation or enhancement of new habitats through woodland creation and peatland restoration.

Farmers, crofters and land managers, other agricultural workers, and those in the agricultural supply chain will benefit from improved air and water quality.

We have received extensive advice on optimising co-benefits from environmental, scientific and industry stakeholders, and this will continue as we consult on the implementation of these policies. Opportunities to optimise economic benefits will be explored through a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment ( BRIA). Environmental benefits will be secured through close working across the public sector, and with other stakeholders. In particular, SEPA has been and will be fully engaged in the development and implementation of agricultural proposals and policies in this Plan.

Improved profitability could encourage greater intensification in farming, resulting in negative impacts on biodiversity. We do not expect this to happen, but it is a possibility. Existing agricultural regulation includes measures designed to protect biodiversity, and substantial funding is provided to encourage uptake of measures that are beneficial to wildlife. These policies can be tailored to ensure positive outcomes for biodiversity.

Planning system

The planning system recognises the benefits of renewable energy, and Scottish Planning Policy supports the development of a diverse range of electricity and heat generation from renewable energy technologies. The farm sector has been active in small scale wind turbine installation. Anaerobic digestion offers further opportunities for heat or combined heat and power. Scottish Planning Policy states that the planning system should encourage rural development that supports prosperous and sustainable communities and businesses while protecting and enhancing environmental quality.

Some communities may be concerned about the creation of new anaerobic digestion plants, and new renewable energy sources such as wind turbines. The consultation requirements linked to consenting procedures provide opportunities for communities to be involved in decision making in relation to applications for anaerobic digestion plant and wind turbines. Permitted development rights are in place for microgeneration scale anaerobic digestion plant on agricultural or forestry land, so planning permission will not always be needed for those installations. Full consultation is required on any proposed changes to development plan policy in the area.


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