The way we fund our farms is making climate change worse and risks our food security, according to a significant new report – which campaigners say makes the case for a radical approach to the upcoming Agriculture Bill.
Farm for Scotland’s Future: the case for change sets out how the Scottish government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill can and must deliver for nature, climate and people through a transition to sustainable farming.
The report was commissioned by the Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign backed by 40 environment, farming and food organisations, and outlines the impact of agriculture on the climate and biodiversity in Scotland.
The report also highlights evidence that a warming climate and the continued decline of biodiversity are posing significant risks to our food producers through droughts, soil erosion and the loss of pollinators.
As it stands, agriculture is currently the third largest source of Greenhouse Gas emissions in Scotland, causing 18% of Scotland’s emissions in 2020. Current practices also make farming a major cause of wildlife loss. Scotland is ranked among the most nature-depleted countries in the world – the Biodiveristy Intactness Indicator ranked Scotland as 28th from bottom out of 240 countries. The report makes the case for reform and details farming practices which support nature, climate and food production with reference to key case studies in Scotland.
The main purpose of the upcoming Agriculture Bill is to rethink the current funding system for the sector, based around direct payments. The report shows that this system is unfair and inefficient, with the top 20% of claimants receiving 62% of the direct payments budget. A new system has the opportunity to incentivise ways of farming which prioritise climate and nature in harmony with food production, and contribute towards achieving a just transition.
Deborah Long, Scottish Environment LINK’s Chief Officer, said:
“Scotland’s farmers and crofters play a vital role in producing food and managing our land. The new farm funding system must support them to do so in a sustainable way.
“But the current, decades-old system rewards land ownership, rather than good land use, and is failing to help the farmers who want to produce food while protecting the environment.
“Environmental crisis is already having an impact on food availability and cost. The Scottish government must deliver a new system that reflects the scale of the challenge and ensures that our farmers and crofters can produce food in climate- and nature-friendly ways.”
Ruth Taylor, Agriculture and Land Use Policy Manager at WWF Scotland, said:
“We know that nature-friendly farming brings benefits for people, animals, nature, and the climate. With lower emissions, healthy soils and livestock, and thriving nature, farming this way also makes good business sense.
“Research from WWF has shown that we have the potential to reduce our emissions and restore nature, while producing nutritious food that is accessible for all. However, the current policies suggested for agriculture get us less than halfway to where we need to be for Scotland to remain on track to reach net zero.
“This year, we have the opportunity to make sure Scotland leads the way on nature and climate-friendly farming. It is essential that we see strong leadership now from the Scottish Government to make sure that happens.”
Vicki Swales, Head of Land Use Policy at RSPB Scotland, said:
“This report underlines the important role farming must play in reviving the wildlife we have lost from our countryside over recent decades. As farmers ourselves, and as advisors to hundreds of other farms across Scotland, the RSPB sees the shift toward nature-friendly practices as essential if we are to improve the resilience of our food system.
“The Scottish public are deeply concerned about the loss of habitats and species. It is vital that MSPs take the opportunity of the Agriculture Bill to put sustainability, in every sense, at the heart of how we produce food and how we manage our land, as this will benefit us all.”
The campaign is supported by a wide range of environmental NGOs such as RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland and the Woodland Trust and is advised by farmers’ groups.
The report was written by Ellie Brodie Consultancy for the Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign.