What’s next for Scottish Agriculture? ScotGov’s vision for Scottish agriculture is light on practical detail
By Head of Rural Land Management, Malcolm Taylor
The decision to bring forward BPS payments a month earlier from October to September 2022 has received a positive reception from Scottish farmers facing the triple whammy of rising fuel, fertiliser and feed costs.
However, farming businesses are still awaiting further clarity on what future support payments will look like following the Scottish Government’s publication of its vision for Scotland to become a ‘global leader’ in sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
The statement, which was published in March, promises a ‘robust and coherent framework’ to underpin Scotland’s future agriculture support regime from 2025 onwards. This will, it says, deliver high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and nature restoration.
The statement also outlines a “twin-track” National Test Programme designed to enhance knowledge exchange and improve environmental measurement tools.
Malcolm Taylor, Head of Land Management at Bell Ingram, has broadly welcomed the programme. He said: “Any strategy that promises to develop sustainable and regenerative farming alongside greater environmental protection has to be seen in a positive light. However, the statement is light on practical detail and reads more like a wish-list at this stage.
“Track two of the National Test Programme, for example, needs the fine print fleshed out so that farming businesses can ensure their environmental performance stacks up ahead of any future public support package coming into force.”
“If we are to plan and invest in the long-term future of our businesses, farmers and land managers need further clarity, especially around what future BPS payments might look like.”
Track One encourages farms to improve their knowledge of current environmental performance and efficiency. Support will incentivise businesses to engage with and adopt measures that will create a baseline of information and understanding in sustainable agriculture. This is an opportunity open to all farmers, crofters and land managers, to enable their businesses to gain an understanding of their own baseline at an individual farm level.
Track Two is short on details, but ScotGov says its purpose is to design, test, improve and standardise the tools, support and process necessary to reward farmers, crofters and land managers for the climate and biodiversity outcomes they deliver.
This will create a robust understanding of how new conditions or activities could be applied to future support and ensure delivery of environmental outcomes in a way that supports sustainable businesses.
Track 2 will include detailed testing of more involved tools and advice that will establish a robust method through which farmers can record the benefits to climate and nature they deliver through their businesses. Once tested these can then be rolled out to all farmers and crofters.
The Programme began earlier this year with a phased approach to rolling out measures for current recipients of farm support payments, with the aim that these measures will become a mandatory requirement for accessing support.
By 2025, the plan is for at least half of all payments within current schemes to become conditional on farmers meeting the new government measures. This is being referred to as farmers needing to meet ‘enhanced conditionality’.
The statement promises: “We are also committed to ensuring that information and data will flow smoothly and securely through a future payments system which allows for benchmarking, national baselining, assessment and analysis of success and further learning opportunities and individual business decision making.”
If you would like to talk about any aspect of how changes in agricultural policy might affect your farming business, contact Malcolm Taylor, Bell Ingram’s Head of Land Management, on 01307 462516 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Senior Partner, FRICS ACIArb
Rural Land Management
Tel: 01307 462 516
About: Malcolm is Bell Ingram's Senior Partner and heads up the company's Forfar office, where he specialises in farm and estate management, including the provision of agricultural rental advice and acting as an expert witness. He is the immediate past chairman of the RICS in Scotland and remains actively involved with the Institution. Malcolm is also head of Lettings within Bell Ingram. Interests: AMC Agent, Corporate Estate Management, Rural Land Management, SRDP Applications, FRICS Registered Valuer.