UK Government support is key to future of farming

With the current guarantee for overall farm support given by the UK Government extending for only another two years, the UK’s environment secretary of state, George Eustice was this week told that maintaining Scotland’s £637 million farm support budget at at least the current level was a ‘significant and increasingly important’ factor in maintaining both viability and confidence within Scottish agriculture.

Jonnie Hall met, George Eusticeand Martin Kennedy
Jonnie Hall met, George Eusticeand Martin Kennedy

At a meeting with the DEFRA secretary at Westminster NFU Scotland’s President Martin Kennedy and director of policy Jonnie Hall said that the continuity of Scotland’s current agricultural and rural funding from UK Government (HM Treasury) beyond 2024/25 would be critical.

They also called on the Scottish Government to ring fence that funding to ensure that it supported active farming and crofting through any new agricultural policy for the country, which was currently being developed.

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Of the current total agricultural support budget of around £637 million in total £485 million is delivered through Pillar One (direct support) schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme and Greening. The remaining funding is delivered through Less Favoured Area support, Agri-Environment schemes, Agricultural Transformation and the Bew Review uplift – and £620 million of that total is currently provided by HM Treasury.

Speaking after the meeting, Kennedy said: “Scotland is in transition away from the CAP to a significantly different and new support framework from 2025 onwards, one that must deliver in terms of food security, climate goals, nature restoration, the wider rural economy and all the jobs that supports.

“While the direction of policy in Scotland is emerging, a bigger unknown and risk is the funding that it will have. There is a degree of certainty about funding and budgets in the short to medium term but the fundamental issue we raised with the Secretary of State is what happens beyond 2024/25.

“Profitability on a great many Scottish farms and crofts is reliant on the support they receive and given the unprecedented increases in costs for fertiliser, fuel, animal feed, labour and energy seen this year, the need for certainty on future funding to provide confidence has never been greater.

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters have a proven track record in delivering a return on investment from public expenditure. A fully funded, future support system that rewards active agricultural businesses will deliver the desired economic, environmental and social outcomes relating to food, climate, biodiversity, jobs and people.”

Scotland’s transition from a post-Brexit, post-Common Agricultural Policy support framework to a new agricultural policy in Scotland, expected to be in place by 2025 will be the topic to be discussed at a 12-storng series of meetings around the country organised by NFU Scotland.

Led by Kennedy and Hall, the meetings will also look at the opportunities and possible pitfalls for farming in the carbon trading market.

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