NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy said that processors and retailers were increasingly looking to Scotland’s farmers and crofters to provide them with a ‘get out of jail free’ card on tackling emissions by tying up agriculture’s carbon credits.
“I see carbon credits as being the new oil industry,” said Kennedy, writing in the union’s blog.
“Right now, we are pretty much in control, but I guarantee that unless we make a stand as farmers and crofters throughout Scotland, we will lose this once in a lifetime opportunity."
He warned that the industry should move forward with extreme caution and make sure that primary producers did not sell themselves short and allow other parts of the supply chain, who could well be struggling to reduce their own emissions, to commandeer the green credentials which rightly belonged to farmers.
He added that it was important for farmers to remember they would need their carbon credits to offset against its own emissions, concluding: “… we must make a stand, or we will look back at this in a few years’ time as a missed opportunity.”
Meanwhile, the ability of tenant farmers to key into the carbon market came under scrutiny at this week AGM of the Scottish Tenant Farmers Association.
Looking at the increase in the number of “green lairds” and the scramble for land for planting trees and other carbon offsetting projects, along with re-wiliding projects, the Scottish Land Commission’s Tenant Farming Commissioner, Dr Bob McIntosh described this element of the private sector as “the new kid on the block” driving land use change.
However, while some opportunities were available for tenants to become involved in tree planting and other long-term sequestration initiatives, he said that under the current legislation the reality was that they couldn’t enter into any meaningful carbon credit projects without the consent of the landowner.
“While small shelterbelts might be okay, any major projects would be classified as a diversification to which the land owner could object.”
But he advised that tenants should not let this lead them to “missing the boat” on such projects and said the best way forward was to discuss such opportunities with landowners and to take a collaborative approach to such long-term commitments.
Leading agricultural lawyer, Hamish Lean, head or rural property at Shepherd and Wedderburn, pointed out that tenants did have a degree of protection from the scramble for land.
He said that as planning permission was not required for forestry planting, land owners could not normally use this route to take land back in hand.
“And while many leases might have specific clauses on resumption written in to them , even here if such a move constituted a major change to the character of the farm such a resumption would not be allowed."