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Farmers Sign Joint Letter To Mairi Gougeon Urging Commitment To Nature Friendly Farming

Farmers in Scotland have written to Mairi Gougeon pledging unwavering commitment to nature-friendly farming ahead of developments in the Scottish Government’s Agriculture Bill.
The letter, signed by members of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “We hope the Government’s commitment will remain clear in the Agriculture Bill following the current consultation period. Targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and low emissions production will be key to the transformation. Area-based payments alone will not achieve nature restoration or climate targets as part of a just transition.”

Previous farming subsidies under the EU Common Agricultural Policy saw payments for the amount of land farmed lead to inefficiencies, waste and environmental degradation.

The group of farmers and crofters say the new system of agriculture payments for environmental outputs will be the bedrock of future food security. On-farm measures that restore and protect the natural environment, including adaptation to extreme weather, nature recovery and improving soil health, are essential to long-term production.

Michael Clarke, Scotland Chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said: “Environmental pressures, including climate change and biodiversity loss, are already affecting farming outputs and the business bottom line. After a year of exponential increases in input costs and the impacts of extreme weather, our food production must build the necessary resilience to maintain viable production, which means mainstreaming nature-friendly farming.”

He said: “We need ambitious, forward-thinking strategies to support the adoption of nature-friendly farming across Scotland. The upcoming Agriculture Bill marks a landmark shift in how Scotland’s food production can improve our landscapes while making choices that will maximise productivity, assist nature recovery and strengthen our food security.”

The rising costs of ecosystem losses, such as declining soil health, are absorbed by farm businesses and result in dependency on expensive and inaccessible artificial inputs, such as nitrogen fertiliser. As the war in Ukraine has pushed up prices and disrupted supply, rising chemical fertiliser prices have added an estimated £160 million to farming’s bottom line.

The letter said: “We want to reaffirm our support for the Government’s determination to develop agriculture, climate and biodiversity policies which recognise and understand the critical relationship between them and that sustained food security can only be maintained and enhanced on this basis.”

“Agriculture can and should benefit from working with nature for sustained food production and delivery of ecosystem services. We must safeguard food security whilst meeting our climate and biodiversity targets. We all have a responsibility to ramp up the scale and ambition of our approaches to these issues.”