Nature-friendly farm support until at least 2025
We welcome news from Scottish Government that as well as extending all Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) contracts by one year, there will be funding available for nature-friendly farming for a further four years.
Scottish Government confirmed to us that more funding would be available between 2021 and 2025, although details of the new scheme have not yet been announced. Letters to confirm the extension by a year of all AECS contracts due to end in 2020 will go out in July.
Organic farming is an important tenet of agroecological farming that should be supported and developed to help meet Scotland’s climate targets and as part of a green recovery.
Public policy and organic food and farming
Increasing the area of organically farmed land will directly reduce the use of environmentally damaging pesticides and fertilisers, which has been found to have several natural capital advantages, including reducing air and water pollution.
Organic farming is also known to increase biodiversity, with an average of 33% more wildlife species found on organic farms, according to analysis by Oxford researchers.
This was recognised in Scotland’s current Programme for Government, which includes commitments to support organic food and farming.
The EU’s new Farm to Fork Strategy, which aims to make food systems fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly, includes an aim to achieve 25% of total farmland in organic management by 2030.
In Scotland, the recently published green recovery paper ‘Towards a Robust, Resilient Wellbeing Economy for Scotland: Report of the Advisory Group on Economic Recovery’ recommends funding nature-based solutions, including for agriculture, to restore Scotland’s natural capital. Organic is one such, well-established, solution.
The need for continuity and funding
The lack of continuity and funding for organics between the previous 2007-2013 and 2014-2020 SRDPs contributed to a large decrease in organic farming in Scotland. This demonstrates that stability and clarity of support are essential: farmers need to be assured that their time and investment will be protected through fair payments that provide continuity and certainty.
It is vital to retain existing organic farmers, with their confidence, knowledge and skills gained over long experience. It is also important that new land is brought into organic production. Initial outlay for organic conversion is high, and although some investment is repaid by the market, it is important we recognise that some is not, yet still delivers public goods such as clean water and air and soil health.
Continuing to fund organic farming in the long term will help deliver Scotland’s rightly ambitious environmental targets and contribute to a green recovery, recognising that food production must protect the environment or it is not secure. We look forward to hearing the detail of future support for organic and other farming practices that help restore climate, nature and health.