SOME FARMERS have slammed a new ScotGov green scheme as 'a total waste of money' that will not help farming deliver on its climate change targets – but others have welcomed it as a ‘much needed step change’ for the industry.

The Sustainable Agriculture Capital Grant Scheme (SACGS) which opened for applications this week, offers grants of up to £20,000 for farmers and crofters to buy equipment that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and support sustainable farming and land use.

However, the scheme has divided farmers and crofters over whether it goes far enough to encourage a real shift in farming operations.

Moray-based beef and sheep farmer Alastair Nairn, who is a tenant on The Crown Estate, told The SF that the new scheme was ‘chicken feed’ and would not deliver on its objectives: “The SACGS scheme is a joke – it is absolutely ridiculous the list of things we can get; a pasture plate meter; yield monitors; a new hedge scoop for cattle – what are these going to deliver?

“Farmers and crofters should be investing in upgrading their machinery to make them more fuel efficient and therefore more environmentally friendly, not improving GPS guidance on old tractors,” he continued. “Most of the things on the list the industry will already have, there is nothing new and innovative to encourage farmers to change their operations.”

An anonymous arable farmer from Aberdeenshire concurred: “There are no incentives for converting to non-inversion tillage or for encouraging cover crops. How will a new set of tyres capture carbon? The Scottish Government has missed a trick here, they could have put in a really good scheme to encourage farmers to change their practices to something sustainable, but instead they have just tried to shoehorn in a lot of current practices.”

But beef and sheep farmer Peter Eccles, who manages Saughland Farm in the Lothians, disagreed: “I see it (SACGS) as having the potential to engage a whole new generation of farmers in working smarter, utilising technology and creating a happier safer working environment for all concerned.

“How they achieve improvements in efficiency and reduced GHG emissions is yet to be seen but I have belief that as a nation of farmers whose livelihoods will soon come under threat from cheap foreign imports, it is in our greatest interest to improve our efficiencies which will in turn enable us to be more competitive while still delivering outstanding Scottish produce.”

Ex-NFUS president, Nigel Miller of Stagehall Farm in the Scottish Borders, agreed that farmers who are already ahead of the curve in terms of efficiency might see the scheme as treading water, but stressed that it was about 'levelling up' the playing field and offering farmers who have not yet embraced sustainability a step onto that ladder.

“This will not only inject a bit of money into the industry but drive a cultural change and create a core framework for more precision orientated agriculture" said Mr Miller, who is also co-chair of the independent climate change inquiry Farming for 1.5 Degrees. "It is a positive way of providing incentives to ensure nutrient management and animal health is brought up to speed and allow tools for data and recording which are going to become increasingly important.”