NFU Scotland has warned against any delays in introducing and implementing a new Scottish farm policy.
The farming union made the comments after submitting its response to a Scottish Government consultation on the transition from the current Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) regime to a new post-Brexit agricultural policy for Scotland.
The consultation, launched by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon in August, will directly inform the paper setting out the proposals for a future Agriculture Bill. The paper is expected to be published and consulted upon in 2022.
NFU Scotland said the Scottish Government cannot adopt a “business as usual” approach to farm subsidies until 2025 if the farming industry is going to be expected to deliver on food production, climate change ambitions and biodiversity enhancement.
The union’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall, said the union had received an “unprecedented response” from its membership ahead of submitting its response to the consultation.
“This a defining moment for the future of Scottish agriculture,” said Mr Hall.
“This is the time for action and the opportunity exists to implement a uniquely Scottish agricultural policy that enables a sustainable and profitable future for Scottish agriculture as it delivers outcomes in everyone’s interests.”
He said the scale and urgency of change required in the next few years cannot be overstated and future agricultural policy must enable every farm and croft in Scotland – regardless of size, type or location – to play its part in producing food and meeting climate and biodiversity goals
“It is clear that the political, economic and social context in which Scottish agriculture now finds itself has changed dramatically and the weight of expectation on delivery rests increasingly with farmers and crofters,” added Mr Hall.
“Given the array of targets that Scottish agriculture has a key role in attaining, the Scottish Government cannot adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach until 2025. It has a responsibility to prepare industry.”
Mr Hall said the most recent Programme for Government commits to a move towards ‘conditional’ farm subsidy payments, with half of all funding for farming and crofting being based on targeted outcomes for low carbon approaches and biodiversity gain.
“That is a fundamental shift in approach that industry must be ready for,” added Mr Hall.
He said the union welcomed the recently announced National Test Programme, which will begin in 2022 and provide up to £51 million of investment to help farmers and crofters establish a baseline and options for action.
“That ‘kick-start’ is what Scottish agriculture needs in the 2022 to 2024 period if the right tools and support are to be in place from 2025, when the climate and biodiversity performance of businesses is likely to determine the level of agricultural support received,” added Mr Hall.