How the Farming Sector is supported in the future is being address in a Bill introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 28th September 2023.
The Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill has been produced by the Scottish Government to support the industry with the challenges it faces post Brexit and with the climate emergency affecting food security.
Speaking about the Bill Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands in the Scottish Government, Mairi Gougeon said:
“Our vision is for Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Introducing this new Bill to parliament is a significant milestone in reforming the support systems that will empower Scotland’s farmers and crofters to cut climate emissions and restore nature, helping us achieve that vision.
“I understand that the sector needs flexibility now and in the future to respond to the pressures and challenges that we will face. As we move forward our Bill will allow for adaptive support for farmers, crofters and land managers in the near, medium and long term future. We will take the time necessary develop the detail of our policy with the people directly affected by it.
“As we continue to co-develop the measures for our four tier support framework, we remain committed to supporting active farming and food production with direct payments now and have a phased approach for integrating new conditionality. Financial support is available right now to help farmers prepare for the changes that are coming – and today we are also launching a call to the sector to participate in interviews, surveys, online and in-person workshops, over the coming months that will help shape future support and how it is delivered.”
The draft Bill has been welcomed by Soil Association Scotland and the recognition it delivers for organic and agroecological farmers and crofters.
Head of policy, Scotland David McKay said that it was a vital piece of legislation. He said:
“This will be a vital piece of legislation in reshaping public support for our farmers and crofters to produce food while helping to tackle the twin climate and nature crises.
“We are pleased to see the commitment to a Rural Support Plan, which reflects one of the key asks of Soil Association Scotland and Scottish Environment LINK to provide programming periods to give some certainty to rural businesses.
“We also note the requirement within the Bill for Ministers to produce a code of practice for ‘sustainable and regenerative agriculture’, including an explanation of what the Scottish Government thinks this means. A clear definition would be welcome, particularly for those who are already farming to organic standards that are underpinned in law and backed by a robust inspection regime. We consider organic and agroecological approaches to be in line with the Scottish Government’s Vision, and therefore should be incentivised under the future support scheme.
“The real test of this government’s commitments on climate and nature will be in the detail of secondary legislation, including payment rates. There is a finite amount of public money that must deliver on multiple policy objectives. That is why Soil Association Scotland is urging all UK political parties to make a clear commitment to increasing spending on food and farming at next year’s general election, including a multi-year, ring-fenced funding commitment from the UK Government for the devolved administrations.”
NFU Scotland has also welcomed the draft legislation but added that it urgently needs detail. Mairi Gougeon will be attending their Autumn Conference and Council Meeting in Dunfermline on Thursday 26 October.
Jonnie Hall, Director of Policy, NFU Scotland said:
“Scottish agriculture is being asked to do much of the heavy lifting to meet Scotland’s climate and nature goals, whilst also continuing to produce food of the highest quality and sustain the socio-economic fabric of our rural communities – the issues that Part 1 of the Bill addresses.
“Scottish agriculture is up to the task, but it will need economically viable support to provide financial stability and to recognise and reward the vast array of positive outcomes that only active farming and crofting can provide.
“While absolutely necessary, frustratingly this primary enabling legislation is also pretty bland – it lacks the obvious detail which farmers and crofters need now if they are to plan for and implement change. NFU Scotland members need the Scottish Government to use 2024 and 2025 as an effective, smooth transition for all agricultural businesses to hit the ground running from 2026.
“At first glance alone, it’s clear there are elements included in the Bill that we have advocated for from the outset. But there are also other sections that need real interrogation. We must, for example, have assurance of a multi-annual support framework. The legislation has to work for and with farmers and crofters if its goals are to stand any chance of success.
“Throughout Stages 1 to 3 of the Scottish Parliament’s legislative process we will scrutinise the published Bill, draft appropriate amendments, liaise with Scottish Government and the relevant Parliamentary Committee, and engage with MSPs and other stakeholders to ensure any necessary amendments are made or indeed other amendments rejected.
“We will also consult closely with our members over the weeks and months ahead, to ensure they’re fully aware of the Bill’s purpose and progress so we can reflect their views and concerns in any changes we seek.
“Our priority right now is ensuring that the powers the Bill creates are capable of delivering a new agriculture support framework which puts agricultural activity and food production at the heart of Scottish Government policy.
“Beyond that, it’s paramount that those powers are then used to deliver the Union’s own vision of a ‘sustainable and profitable future for farmers and crofters’ because that is the only route to delivering all required outcomes.”
Click on this link for Related information from the Scottish Government on the Bill
Mairi Gougeon explained:
“Our Agricultural Reform Route Map provides a clear set of programme dates to explain when current schemes will transition or end and when more guidance, support and information will be available. This will be updated and we will communicate with the agriculture sector to ensure everyone is fully prepared and supported for change.”
You can read more about that here: Agricultural Reform Route Map
The next phase of public participation is open to all. Volunteers will be reimbursed with the amount varying by activity dependent on time involved. Volunteers are invited to register interest in the first instance interest using this link – https://forms.office.com/e/5KgnShDVEz