NFU Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to fulfil its commitment to deliver new policy initiatives in 2022 in preparation for Scotland's new agricultural policy by 2025.

President Martin Kennedy said the time for headline announcements on policy was over, and now is the time for delivery. The Union wants to see the promised new measures proposed under the recently announced National Test Programme coming forward with urgency in Spring 2022.

“The policy context has shifted significantly – Scottish agriculture must now deliver on food production, climate ambition and biodiversity enhancement simultaneously," said Mr Kennedy. "We are up for the challenge, but we need the right policy tools to deliver.

“A period of relative stability between 2022 and 2024 is required, but the scale and urgency of change demands pragmatic action from the Scottish Government during that time to make the most of the recently announced £51 million National Test Programme and our transition to a new policy framework by 2025."

Mr Kennedy noted that for more than three years, the union had been 'clear and consistent' on what it believes is required, and in particular its ‘Steps to Change’ strategy, first published in March 2018, set out the need for a shift from area-based to action-based support.

“More recently ‘The Transition to Future (Conditional) Agricultural Support – NFU Scotland’s Approach’ was published in July 2021. It mapped out a single approach that we believe the Scottish Government should take, building on the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s five Farmer Led Climate Change Groups. Its aim is to incentivise farmers and crofters towards a new Scottish agricultural policy that will use conditionality to embed climate and biodiversity further into future support mechanisms.

“Given the urgency required, we want to ensure that Scottish Government accepts its responsibility in enabling change," said Mr Kennedy. "We welcomed the announcement at our autumn conference in October that a £51 million package of non-competitive support over three years will help Scotland’s farmers and crofters transition to a system of sustainable agriculture that will help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and enhance biodiversity.

“But the time for headline announcements is over, now is the time for delivery. The pressure is on to ensure that baselining measures around carbon audits, soil testing and nutrient management plans can be rolled out on the scale required by Spring 2022. That needs to be further built on with measures around biodiversity audits.

“As co-chair of the Agricultural Reform Implementation Oversight Board, sitting alongside Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon, I am committed to bringing about effective change through meaningful measures that are open to all. Working at pace behind the ARIOB is the Scottish Government’s Policy Development Group on which NFU Scotland also has representation. The challenge to have an operational and effective National Test Programme ready for roll out in Spring 2022 is daunting but is equally non-negotiable.

“If Scottish agriculture is to deliver all that is now expected of it, then the Scottish Government must enable it to do so – and that must begin in the next few short months.”