Scottish Government has established a new board to develop future farming policy and pledged to introduce schemes to help farmers reduce their emissions by spring next year.
Rural Affairs Secretary, Mairi Gougeon, said the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB) will be tasked with developing new proposals for sustainable farming.
It will take into account recommendations from the government’s farmer-led climate groups and its climate change plan update – this commits the agriculture sector to reducing its emissions by 31% from current levels by 2032.
“We see our land mangers and world-class producers thriving, while backing our world-leading climate change agenda and our response to the biodiversity crisis,” said Ms Gougeon.
“The establishment of the board will help us to make early progress in delivering emissions reductions and I look forward to working with the board members closely to deliver the change and the outcomes urgently required.”
She said the board, which she will co-chair alongside NFU Scotland (NFUS) president Martin Kennedy, will also develop a preliminary package of funded measures – known as the National Test Programme – to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the COP 26 climate event in Glasgow in November.
“The package should be implemented by spring 2022, with recruitment of farmers and crofters expected to begin this autumn,” said Ms Gougeon.
“Meantime, it is also important we remain focused on the long-term future for agriculture. That is why I have launched a consultation exercise today which will ensure everyone can play their part in shaping the future of farming, food production and land use in Scotland.”
These include proposals from the suckler beef group for a new support scheme to help the beef sector reduce its climate impact and boost its efficiency.
Scottish Government said the consultation and the new board will directly inform the paper setting out the proposals for a future Agriculture Bill. The paper is expected to be published and consulted on in 2022.
NFUS president, Martin Kennedy, welcomed the news and said he had agreed to co-chair ARIOB to ensure delivery happens.
He added: “The time for talking is over and the time for delivery on a new agricultural policy for Scotland is now.
“I am committed to making this process work, but I won’t hesitate to walk if I believe our ambitions are being stifled or if the drive to put in place what our fantastic farming industry needs starts to fail.”
Other members of ARIOB include: Sutherland farmer Joyce Campbell, who co-chaired one of the farmer-led groups; Aberdeenshire farmer Andrew Moir, who chaired the arable farmer-led group; Scottish Crofting Federation chairman Donald Mackinnon; and Quality Meat Scotland chairman Kate Rowell.