The Scottish Government is consulting on the future of farming policy in Scotland. They need to hear a strong message that farming practices should not harm nature or contribute to climate change, and that agriculture policy must support farmers to adopt the right practices.
Of course, it will be important to hear from farmers during this consultation. However, the viewpoints of others matter here, too. It is important that the Scottish Government hears a breadth of views including from consumers, taxpayers and concerned citizens, and from all those who want farmers and our government to take urgent action for nature and our climate.
Agriculture takes place on 75% of Scotland’s land area, producing meat, cereals, fruits and vegetables. The types of farming and the methods used have significant impacts on nature and our climate. Whilst some kinds of farming and crofting are positive for nature and low carbon, a lot of the farming we see today is contributing to the loss of wildlife and to significant emissions of greenhouse gases. This needs to change.
Farming policy has a big influence on the decisions farmers and crofters make about how they produce food and manage their land. The policies of the Scottish Government send important signals – through setting regulations and providing financial incentives and advice – about how to farm and use land. The Scottish Government plans to reform farming policy and there is now an opportunity to make sure new policy encourages all of Scotland’s farmers and crofters to farm in nature positive and low carbon ways. Your voice can make a difference.
For many years, as a result of being a member of the EU, farming policy in Scotland was determined by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). Through the CAP, farmers and crofters were able to claim payments through a range of different schemes to a total value of approximately £650 million each year. Much of this money is handed out as direct payments, based on the area of land farmed and the type of land. Larger, more productive farms on better quality land receive the lion’s share of money. Little of the money is used to pay for land management and activities that help wildlife or encourage farmers to take climate action. For example, only about 7% of the budget is allocated to the Agri-Environment-Climate Scheme which supports nature and climate friendly farming.
The UK has left the EU and Scotland now has a chance to do things differently. The Scottish Government has signalled it intends to transition to a new policy by 2025. This consultation is a first step to gather views on what kind of farm support and funding might be needed. It will set the stage for further consultation next year and a new Agriculture Bill in 2023. Now is the time to make it clear that we need to support farming that works for nature and the climate, as well as people.
If you can spare a little time to submit a response to the consultation have a look here for guidance and help on how to do that. The closing date for responses is 17th November so please do this as soon as you can. Let’s make sure our views are heard.