Small Producers Pilot Fund Steering Group minutes: May 2023

Minutes from meeting held on 30 May 2023.

Attendees and apologies

  • Helen Glass, Chair, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fiona Leslie, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Martin Beard, Smallholding Scotland
  • Liz Barron-Majerik, Lantra Scotland
  • Rosemary Champion, Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST)
  • Flora Corbett, Mull Slaughterhouse and Butchery
  • Diana Garduño Jiménez, Nourish Scotland
  • Jo Hunt, crofter and Knockfarrel Produce
  • Louise Hellyer, Scottish Government (SG)
  • Archie Hipwell, smallholder and supply chain consultant
  • Patrick Krause, Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF)
  • Donald MacKinnon, Scottish Crofting Federation (SCF)
  • David McKay, Soil Association Scotland (SAS)
  • Abi Mordin, Hidden Veg and Propagate
  • Justin Orde, South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE)
  • Ceri Ritchie, SAC Consulting, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)
  • Debs Roberts, Scottish Organic Producers’ Association (SOPA)
  • Scott Walker, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW)
  • Tara Wight, Land Workers Alliance (LWA)
  • Emma Patterson Taylor, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Alan Stevenson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Rona Sutherland, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Allison Watson, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)
  • Fergus Younger, Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society (SAOS)


  • Adam Forrest, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)
  • David Michie, National Farmers’ Union of Scotland (NFUS)
  • Fiona Richmond, Scotland Food & Drink (SFD)

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed everyone to the third Steering Group meeting. The next two meetings will also be virtual, but the sixth meeting, on Tuesday 29th August, will be held in person, at the Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA) offices in Edinburgh. It is hoped that this meeting will include a post-lunch working session. Further details will be sent to Members nearer the time.

Apologies are noted above. The Minutes of the last meeting on 25th April were adopted and approved for publication on the Scottish Government (SG)’s website.

All action points from that meeting are in progress. Members asked if an Action Log could be compiled and circulated to members.

Action point 1

An Action Log will be circulated to Members with the Minutes from this meeting and it will also be posted on the Small Producers Pilot Fund (SPPF) eRDM Connect folder.

Abattoir survey update 

Fergus Younger, SAOS thanked Members for their feedback on the draft survey, which is currently being amended to incorporate all comments. The survey has also been shortened and questions removed where it is felt that the information sought could be gained from other sources. The aim is to ensure that the focus remains strategic.

The Sustainable Food Trust was very helpful in sharing its abattoir survey questions and anonymised responses. SAOS is working in partnership with that organisation in disseminating this survey to ensure those who have responded to that one understand where this one fits.

In terms of survey dissemination, Members were thanked again for sharing details of their communication channels, which will be utilised. While being very careful not to breach GDPR rules, the ScotEID database will allow direct communication with farmers who have used an abattoir recently. This won’t pick up latent demand, but some of the other communication/dissemination channels will. A telephone line service will be offered and SAOS will have a stand at the Royal Highland Show to allow in-person responses.

The aim is to go live with the survey on Thursday 1st June and gather responses throughout June. Members will be updated with progress on an ongoing basis and may be asked for support if responses seem light in any particular geographic area.

Members asked if it would be possible to get an overview of current abattoir provision in Scotland – where they are, which species are covered and whether a private kill service is offered. There was also interest in gathering historical information, if it were available, on any changes to the number of abattoirs and the number of private kills over the last 10 years. SAOS indicated that it will be working with the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers’ (SAMW) to help build an overview of current abattoir provision in Scotland. SAOS will also be attending the SAMW Annual General Meeting (AGM) on 31st May and will ask if there is any available historical information which could be shared relating to changes in the number of abattoirs and private kill.

There was discussion about the ability of the survey to capture information about the distances animals were travelling for slaughter and how information would be captured on animals moving out of Scotland. SAOS responded that information on the distances animals are travelling should be available via postcode information entered into the ScotEID system. This will not capture animals travelling to England, but the survey questions also allow respondents to enter details of the abattoirs they use.

Members asked if Breed Societies could be added to the Abattoir Survey Comms Plan circulation list.

Action point 2

Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) has shared information on current abattoir provision with SAOS, which will be attached to the Minutes and posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Action point 3

SAOS will attend SAMW’s AGM and ask if there is any available historical information which could be shared relating to changes in the number of abattoirs and private kill.

Action point 4

SAOS to add a Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) contact name to the Abattoir Survey Comms Plan.

Action point 5

SAOS to circulate messaging for organisations to use on social media and websites to ensure that communications are consistent.

Action point 6

SAOS will ensure that Breed Societies are also contacted.

Action Point 7

Members to consider whether it would be useful to set up an abattoir subgroup Supply Chain Presentation (Donald MacKinnon, Scottish Crofting Federation, SCF).

The presentation explained what crofting is, how it has changed over time and how supply chain considerations can affect the activities crofters are able to undertake. Most crofters are now specialising in store cattle and sheep production and horticulture and direct sales are increasingly important.

A number of key issues were highlighted which impact on the crofting supply chain:

  • access to vets, which is a particular issue in some islands, where practices are under-staffed and over-stretched. This means that it is harder for crofters to access proactive, preventative health care for livestock, e.g. developing animal health plans
  • abattoir provision, where coverage is varied and not all abattoirs provide the same service
  • access to butchery services
  • the fragility and interdependency of the crofting, farming, animal feed and associated agricultural services businesses

Members asked whether all vet visits were conducted in-person, or whether remote technologies were used. SCF responded that vets had introduced an app for ordering prescriptions, etc., but that this didn’t really help to tackle the proactive aspects of veterinary care, such as the development of animal health plans.

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) stated that its Veterinary Services team had developed an animal health planning app as part of the national veterinary disease surveillance programme that it delivers on behalf of the SG. SCF is aware of this programme and feels it is something crofters could engage with more. SRUC also runs Scotland’s Farm Advisory Service.

Members discussed whether the Small Producers Pilot Fund (SPPF) might be relevant in supporting veterinary services and reiterated their thoughts that the SPPF should be as flexible as possible, to allow it to respond to particular circumstances/issues that arise in different areas.

A question was raised about whether there were any reports on the economics of crofting which could be shared with Members. The SG confirmed that a report is available which will be shared on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

On the broader issues around the viability of crofting, dealing with price volatility, etc., suggestions were made that developing integrated local supply chains helped to provide greater stability and reduced susceptibility to price volatility.

A specific point was raised that if store animals from crofters are not quality assured, they cannot enter that supply chain. This may not affect meat sales if the product is being sold locally, but it could have an impact on fifth quarter sales for export markets. In that instance abattoirs will insist the relevant quality assurance or veterinary inspection has taken place.

SCF responded that while QMS has tried to make the quality assurance (QA) schemes easier to join, where there is no additional premium gained on the sale price, e.g. lamb, it does not make economic sense to pay additional membership costs. On the beef side, though, there is an incentive to have calves farm assured. If future regulations are changing, however, and not being a member of a QA scheme leads to products being devalued, or barred from export markets, that might be the incentive crofters need to join a QA scheme.

It was proposed that the Supply Chain subgroup invite a technical expert from QMS onto the subgroup to provide advice and share knowledge of upcoming changes to regulations as a result of Brexit that might have an impact on small livestock producers.

Action point 8

The presentation that Donald MacKinnon gave will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Action point 9

The latest report from SRUC on its disease surveillance programme will be posted on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Action point 10

The SG will post its report on the economics of crofting on the SPPF eRDM Connect Folder.

Action point 11

The Supply Chain subgroup will ask QMS if it would like to participate as a technical advisor to the subgroup.

Subgroup 1 "Definition of a Small Producer" update

Rosemary Champion commented that the subgroup is still considering land size as part of the definition, as although it has drawbacks, it is easy to understand. Upper limit of 30 hectares seems reasonable at the moment, but defining a lower limit is difficult as horticulture businesses work on very small areas. Steering Group Members pointed out that businesses such as food hubs, abattoirs and microgreens would be excluded if a lower land size limit was imposed.

There is agreement that the SPPF should not be accessible to members of the public with large gardens who produce small amounts and sell to friends, but should be available to small producers where there is real economic activity. Members suggested that perhaps there could be a number of eligibility criteria to access the Fund. South of Scotland Enterprise (SOSE) is looking at potential measures of economic activity that might help in defining eligibility criteria. Though everyone understands that the SPPF is for resource funding and not capital, the subgroup reiterated its feeling that there needs to be some capital element. If the capital element cannot be part of the SPPF, it would be useful to see where SPPF fits within the other funding support available to small agriculture businesses in Scotland.

The case for capital funding would still need to be made by the Steering Group and this would need to include consideration of what any capital should be used for. Subgroup 1 feels that producing an outline paper is out with its remit, but if others from the Steering Group are interested in this, they could volunteer to take this forward.

The SG suggested that there may be merit in helping to signpost small producers to existing sources of capital funding.

Action point 12

Members who volunteered at the meeting will draft an outline paper to explain the need for capital funding by end of June. This paper will be shared with the Steering Group on the SPPF eRDM Connect folder.

Engagement Process and Subgroup update

Helen Glass and Emma Patterson Taylor, SAOS commented that there are currently five subgroups: definition of a small producer, monitoring and evaluation, training and skills, horticulture demonstration activities and supply chain. Two others have been proposed – one on the SPPF applications process and one on abattoirs.

Action point 13

Members interested in participating in either of those should email Helen Glass at SAOS.

SAOS has had one-to-one discussions with almost all the Steering Group Members – there are two still to be scheduled, otherwise all are underway.

In-person visits are being arranged in three areas:

• Dumfries and Galloway (Abi Mordin co-ordinating) – July 21st

• Stirling (Fergus Younger co-ordinating) – date to be confirmed

• Dingwall (Jo Hunt co-ordinating) – September, date to be confirmed

The Dumfries and Galloway visit will start at the Glenkens Food Hub in St Johns town of Dalry. 12 local producers sell their products through the online Food Hub and their products are distributed from the packing centre at Glenkens across a 60-mile radius. This is followed by a visit to two of the local producers’ premises: firstly Suie Fields, which produces beef, pork, soft fruit and vegetables on 10acres; then Low Auldgirth Steading, which produces lamb from rare breed sheep and wool fibre products on 30 acres. Both small producers are part of the regenerative farming programme.

Members are welcome to register their interest in attending any/all of the visits, but should be aware that numbers may have to be limited. Those attending should try to arrange travel share, but will be able to claim expenses for time, travel and carer support costs if required.

Action point 14

Members interested in attending any/all of the visits should register their interest by contacting Helen Glass at SAOS.

Scottish Smallholder Festival 

Martin Beard informed the group that the Scottish Smallholder Festival is a celebration of the year and showcase for smaller scale producers, illustrating what can be achieved from small-scale farming. The event will be held on 14th October 2023, hopefully at the Highland Hall, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston, although this is still to be confirmed. The format includes livestock competitions, seminars and talks and exhibitions. It provides an opportunity for the Steering Group to consider the Festival as a platform to share the work it has been doing on the development of the SPPF and seek feedback from small producers. There is also an opportunity for individual Steering Group Members to consider its relevance as a showcase for the work of their organisations.

Action point 15

Steering Group Members interested in exploring opportunities at the event for their individual organisation, should contact Martin or Rosemary to discuss.

Action point 16

A meeting with subgroup chairs will take place next month to discuss potential opportunities for the SPPF Steering Group to share its work/seek feedback.

Any other business 

As many of the Steering Group Members may have turned off notifications from the SPPF eRDM Connect folder, Louise Hellyer at the SG will send out a weekly email to let Members know when new

documents have been added.

Date of next meeting

The next meeting will be on Tuesday 27th June 10am to 12 noon by Teams Conference Call

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