Farmers in Scotland will benefit from a share of £40m as the Scottish Government moves to decarbonise the agricultural sector.
The Agricultural Transformation
The scheme also seeks to improve the industry’s environmental credentials by protecting and restoring natural habitats and building sustainability through business practices that encourage productivity and innovation.
Speaking to journalists at NFU Scotland’s annual conference in Glasgow, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said making the sector more sustainable would be ’commercially advantageous’ as consumers seek more environmentally friendly food.
“I think this will become a benefit for farmers because it will produce a market premium for food when you compare it to food that has not been produced in accordance with the high standards here,” said Mr Ewing, adding there was a ‘growing acceptance’ this was the future direction of travel for government policy.
Speaking just a few miles from the venue of the COP26 which is due to take place in November, Mr Ewing said there had been ‘little kickback’ from farmers.
“By sending this message now it allays some of the critics of farming that are quite vocal at the moment and causing concern to many farmers,” he added.
"So many farmers are already farming in this way so we are not starting from scratch.
"There is some really exciting work going on. Farmers are up for this."
However, Mr Ewing said some farmers had shared concerns about the practicalities of measures to reduce their climate impact and how they might be measured. He urged farmers to complete carbon audits.
Earlier, NFU Scotland combinable crops board chairman Ian Sands raised concerns about measuring a farm’s carbon footprint when the metrics, for example how much carbon crops were already sequestering, were not available.
Mr Sands said: “We have no facts on this. You cannot set a target when you do not know where you are starting from.”
Mr Ewing said there was a good range of data available and the government would communicate this to producers.
He added: "Our programme for Government has already set out our steps in response to the climate emergency, including significantly increasing tree planting levels, restoring peatland, and promoting low carbon agricultural practices, including organic practices. This programme will build upon these foundations to position the sector to take advantage of the green economy.
“Let me be clear though, achieving this will require every one of us to think about what you can do to ensure you play your part in transitioning to a net zero future.”