Environment charities welcome Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill and call for radical change to farm funding

03 Oct 2023

Environment charities have welcomed the publication on Friday of Scotland’s Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill, and have called on the Scottish government to introduce a radical new farm funding system to help the industry reduce climate emissions and restore biodiversity.  

The charities, who launched the Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign in 2022 alongside farmers’ groups, want at least three quarters of public spending on farming to support methods that restore nature and tackle climate change as well as producing food.

The Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill will require Ministers to produce a code of practice for ‘sustainable and regenerative agriculture’. But campaigners say that to meet its own targets to cut emissions and restore Scotland’s nature, the Scottish government must shift spending on farming so that it incentivises and supports sustainable farming, and move away from payments per hectare which disproportionately benefit large landowners.

Figures released in June showed that climate emissions from agriculture have risen to make it Scotland’s second biggest source of emissions. Current methods also make farming a major cause of nature loss.

Deborah Long, chief officer of Scottish Environment LINK, said today:

“Farming and crofting have a vital role to play in tackling climate change and restoring Scotland’s nature, as well as producing food. We need to transform the way Scotland farms, and we need our farm funding system to reflect those expectations.

“The current system was designed for a different era, and it’s woefully inadequate for the challenges we face today. A system that pays people based on the amount of land they farm, and not what they do with it, should be consigned to history.

“A radical new approach is needed to help all farmers and crofters make the transition to sustainable farming and to support the many different ways they can increase biodiversity on farms and reduce emissions.

“The Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill is a welcome step towards creating a better system, and we’re pleased to see the commitment to a Rural Support Plan, which will provide certainty for rural businesses with its programming periods. But the way funding is distributed in the new system will be key. We look forward to engaging with MSPs on this bill to help ensure that the new system supports farming methods that work for nature, climate and people.”

Image: Oystercatcher © Ian Francis (rspb-images.com)

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