It’s time to talk turkey on future farm policy - Martin Kennedy

The time for headline announcements on future farm policy is over and details on proposed new measures are urgently required to secure farmer buy-in to the transition to more climate change and environment focused measures.

Martin Kennedy
Martin Kennedy

A call was issued yesterday for a speedy and pragmatic introduction of the proposed National Test Programme (NTP) scheme - which will set the baseline for individual carbon audits and soil health measures on farms around the country - by NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy.

Announced by rural secretary Mairi Gougeon at the end of the October, the NTP is viewed as the first step in moving Scotland’s farm policy into a new support system which will prevail from 2025.

Funded by the £51 million Bew uplift over the first three years, Kennedy said that was critical that producers bought into the new measures – but to do this they urgently required the details of the scheme.

Speaking at a press briefing, Kennedy agreed that while some stability was welcome, Brexit also had to act as a catalyst for the change away from area-based support to activity.

“The policy context has shifted significantly. Scottish agriculture now must deliver on food production, climate ambition and biodiversity enhancement simultaneously. We are up for the challenge, but we need the right policy tools to deliver.”

He said that the sort of stepped transition alongside continued stability which had been outlined in several of the union’s own policy papers was required if Scotland was to avoid the “car-crash” in support measures which was unfolding south of the border.

But he warned urgent and pragmatic moves were required from the Scottish Government if this was to be successfully carried forward.

“The pressure is on to ensure that baselining measures around carbon audits, soil testing and nutrient management plans can be rolled out on the scale required by spring 2022. That needs to be further built on with measures around biodiversity audits,” warned Kennedy.

He said that sitting as co-chair of the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), alongside Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon, he was pushing for the delivery of meaningful measures which were open to all.

“The challenge to have an operational and effective National Test Programme ready for roll out in spring 2022 is daunting - but is equally non-negotiable.

“If Scottish agriculture is to deliver all that is now expected of it, then the Scottish Government must enable it to do so – and that must begin in the next few short months,” he declared.

The union’s director of policy Jonnie Hall said that it was critical that the base lining exercise got off the ground sooner rather than later

And he added that with the costs of the new scheme likely to be front loaded, the union was pushing to have the £10 million allocated to the first year increased to ensure that the maximum number of farmers could get early entry into the scheme.