At long last, the Scottish Government has launched a consultation entitled ‘Agricultural Transition – First steps towards our national policy.’ This, as the title suggests, is only the first step towards a new Scottish Agricultural Policy that will replace the Common Agricultural Policy and is based largely on the reports provided by a number of Farmer-led groups representing different industries within Scottish Agriculture.
It is expected that a further consultation will follow in 2022 before any new policy is enacted in 2023. Farming in Scotland is in desperate need of some clarity going forward regarding any direct support or a replacement to the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme, so the idea of having to wait another two years before anything is finalised will be a cause of concern to many. Let’s hope that the Rural Department will use this additional time wisely to avoid any mistakes.
These Farmer led groups were tasked with presenting recommendations on how future policy could support farmers and crofter to reduce emissions, therefore it is no surprise that the direction of travel is very much environmentally focused, with carbon capture and the Net Zero target appearing to form the basis of these questions.
There are a number of interesting points included within this consultation that may well provide an insight into what farmers should expect going forward.
Firstly, it appears that there was limited support from all groups involved for a significant change in land use from agriculture to forestry, with the loss of productive agricultural land being the main issue to avoid. Instead, there appears to be support for the development of agro-forestry and increasing both hedgerows and farmland woodlands, rather than large plantations. This will probably come as welcome news to tenant farmers or those looking to buy farmland for agricultural purposes.
Secondly, most of the groups involved have proposed the need for a baseline environmental audit to be carried out on farms, this will presumably provide a starting point at the beginning of the new scheme to which improvements will be measured against, including such things as biodiversity, water quality and soil health. Carbon Audits are already offered by the Farm Advisory Service, of which Edwin Thompson is an affiliated agent, but at present these are not mandatory, this is something that is likely to change.
Thirdly, there are suggestions from a number of these groups that capital funding can provide both economic and environmental benefits to a farming business. It may well be that we will see a similar scheme to the capital grant scheme of last year which will provide funding for items that will boost efficiency, including livestock handling equipment, or precision farming systems for arable businesses.
For further information of this consultation, and to take part, please follow the link below. The closing date for this is the 17th November 2021.
Post written by Jack Frater from our Galashiels office. For more information on how our Rural team can help you, please contact:
Galashiels: 01896 751300 – Jack Frater and Andrew Hamilton