Funding schemes worth £40 million are being made available from this year to help Scottish farmers tackle climate change.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing unveiled the Scottish Government’s agricultural transformation programme to NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) conference in Glasgow yesterday and said it was focused on improving the environmental sustainability of the sector.
The details of schemes are still to be developed, but it is envisaged the money will be apportioned as £20 million of capital, to be paid to farmers as grants, and £20m in the form of loans.
Mr Ewing outlined what he called “key areas of opportunity” for the industry, which include funding pilot schemes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; encouraging more tree planting; promoting the benefits of good grassland management for livestock producers; investment in renewable energy; and the development of organic farming.
He said: “I think farmers are ready, they’re up for this, provided it is practical and doable.
“We want to give them notice because in March they will receive the first tranche of convergence payment which will be an opportunity to invest in the future of sustainable farming.”
The announcement came hours after NFUS president Andrew McCornick said the industry was being asked to respond to a climate change emergency without being given the tools.
The message had been passed on to Mr Ewing.
Mr Ewing insisted: “I understand the concerns over practicality and deliverability, so we will work closely with farmers to ensure this is a practical, effective and deliverable scheme.”
Mr Ewing also suggested the enhancement of environmental credentials in Scottish agriculture and the production of “low carbon food” could result in financial benefits.
“Low carbon-sourced food will in time become a benefit for farmers because it will produce a market premium compared to food that hasn’t been produced to high environmental standards,” he said.