Gordon MP Richard Thomson has said the newly-published Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill represents an opportunity to shape Scottish farming for years to come.
The Agriculture and Rural Communities Bill will reform how the government will support farming and food production in Scotland. It will legislate to introduce a new framework of support to replace the current Common Agricultural Policy.
The Bill aims to deliver the key ambitions set out in the Scottish Government’s Vision for Agriculture: helping our farmers and crofters to produce more of what we eat more sustainably, to support their essential role in delivering climate mitigation and adaptation, and in biodiversity restoration. In seeking the powers to realise that Vision, the Bill will enable a payments framework that incentives a drive towards low carbon approaches to improve the resilience, efficiency and profitability of the sector.
Commenting, Richard Thomson MP said:
“Publication of this Bill is very welcome and it represents an opportunity to shape what Scottish farming looks like for years to come.
“It’s fair to say that the Bill has been keenly-anticipated in agricultural circles. Parts of the Bill are quite straightforward and are asks that farmers have been making for some time. In other areas, the hard task of ensuring as the Parliamentary process develops that the range of views on what the Bill seeks to achieve can command a broad consensus will require careful navigation.
“Above all, however, we need an outcome that ensures Scottish agriculture has the tools to adapt to and take advantage of social, economic, and environmental changes, not least to overcome the disadvantages heaped upon the industry by the UK's disastrous exit from the EU.”
Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon MSP commented:
“Our vision is for Scotland to become a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. Introducing this new Bill to Parliament is a significant milestone in reforming the support systems that will empower Scotland’s farmers and crofters to cut climate emissions and restore nature, helping us achieve that vision.
“I understand that the sector needs flexibility now and in the future to respond to the pressures and challenges that we will face. As we move forward our Bill will allow for adaptive support for farmers, crofters and land managers in the near, medium and long term future. We will take the time necessary develop the detail of our policy with the people directly affected by it.
“As we continue to co-develop the measures for our four-tier support framework, we remain committed to supporting active farming and food production with direct payments now and have a phased approach for integrating new conditionality. Financial support is available right now to help farmers prepare for the changes that are coming - and today we are also launching a call to the sector to participate in interviews, surveys, online and in-person workshops, over the coming months that will help shape future support and how it is delivered.
“Our Agricultural Reform Route Map provides a clear set of programme dates to explain when current schemes will transition or end and when more guidance, support and information will be available. This will be updated and we will communicate with the agriculture sector to ensure everyone is fully prepared and supported for change.”
Note: Photo attached shows Richard Thomson MP on a previous farm visit with North-east NFUS members at Leslie, near Insch. (l to r: Gordon McKilligan; Richard Thomson MP; Cameron Ewen; Alan Simpson; David Smith.)