Have your say: Future of farming and agriculture consultation launched

Modifying payments made to farmers to help guarantee nature-friendly planting, top-quality food production and high animal welfare standards is among proposals to be discussed in a new consultation launched by the Scottish Government.

People are being urged to take part in the discussion to help shape the Scottish Government's coming Agriculture Bill.

Other proposals include introducing new measures to modernise tenant farming and encouraging practices that improve life and wages in rural communities.

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Topics include fair income for farmers, environmental care and delivery of climate change objectives, nature restoration and biodiversity; creating vibrant rural areas; protecting food; and fostering innovation.

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The consultation will include a series of online and in-person events to gather the views of stakeholders and members of the public.

Rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “We are supporting our farmers, crofters and land managers to produce more high-quality and sustainable food, as well as ensuring our food system is more resilient.

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“The fact is that high-quality food production is very much a part of meeting our net zero targets and dealing with the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss.

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A public consultation has been launched to seek views on proposals for Scotland's new Agriculture Bill, expected next year -- with discussions on topics such as how to maintain high animal welfare standards

“We have ambitious targets and right across the agriculture sector we have the talent and skills to meet our aims.

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“I would urge people from all walks of life to get involved and make their views known – these issues affect us all.”

Agriculture is responsible for a major share of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions – around 18 per cent.

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The Scottish Government’s climate change plan has committed to reducing these by 31 per cent by 2032.

Changes to the ways farmer and crofters are supported to produce high-quality food, ensure fair wages and encourage nature-friendly planting are among the topics in the consultation
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But Scottish farmers have hit out at the slow progress in reforming support for agriculture businesses and expressed “deep disappointment that greater detail on future policy options is still not available”.

At a time when farming is facing a crisis in confidence, driven by rising costs, volatile prices, labour shortages and extreme weather, farmers and crofters are desperately seeking direction and reassurance that Scottish agricultural policy will support them to produce food profitably and sustainably in the future, according to leading Scottish farming union NFU Scotland.

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Union president Martin Kennedy said: “Instead of more plans and declarations, we need a policy that supports farm output, supports the measures that will help us cut our carbon footprint and supports the measures that will enhance biodiversity.

“With fertiliser 300 per cent higher than last year, electricity prices quadrupled and diesel costs through the roof, the industry doesn’t have time to wait for detail.

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"Production is falling and we need the Scottish Government to say how it is going to halt this decline and give farmers the confidence to keep going for the future."

Mr Kennedy accused Scottish ministers of failing to listen to the industry.

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Environmentalists say changing how subsidies are paid is key to greener agriculture.

“Farmers and crofters are at the frontline of climate change, and they also hold the solution as managers of the land,” Ruth Taylor, agriculture and land use policy manager at charity WWF Scotland, said.

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The new Agriculture Bill is expected in 2023 – delivering on the Scottish Government’s Vision for Agriculture, which was published in March.

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