Other parts of the food supply chain are increasingly looking to Scotland’s farmers and crofters to provide them with a ‘get out of jail free’ card on tackling carbon emissions – so farmers must make a stand writes NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy.

"I see carbon credits as being the new oil industry. Right now, we are pretty much in control, but I guarantee that unless we make a stand as farmers and crofters throughout Scotland, we will lose this once in a lifetime opportunity.

On carbon credits, we must go forward with extreme caution and make sure that as a primary producer we do not sell ourselves short and allow other parts of the supply chain, who may be struggling to reduce their own emissions, manipulate us into giving up our green credentials for their benefit.

As an industry, primary producers have always been the part in the chain that has either had to do more in terms of animal health and welfare, or more to grow our arable crops in an ever increasing environmentally friendly manner.

That’s something we should be immensely proud of and something we should strive to improve on at every opportunity.

What must change, however, is that there needs to be fair recognition of these efforts as it all comes at a cost. I’m not going to go into the comparisons of production systems across the globe, some of which we are already competing with on an unfair playing field. What concerns me more now, than ever before, is other parts of the supply chain looking at us to give them a ‘get out of jail free’ card.

We all know that everyone is looking to address their emissions to be as near carbon neutral or indeed carbon positive as possible, and agriculture is no different.

Indeed, when it comes to future agricultural policy, we will need to address this even more. This is now becoming apparent in securing future funding and financial support from our banks, where we will need to show that we are being as sustainable as practicably possible.

Time and time again we are asked to do more and more and yet it is others who reap the benefit. When it comes to supplying our processors or retailers, we cannot be hoodwinked into giving up our green credentials to them because we will need them to allow us, as an industry, to offset against our own emissions.

I am under no illusion that, for many, this ability to sell verified carbon credits up front is massively attractive. In fact, trading surplus carbon units, for some, on an annual basis makes good business sense.

However, we could be doing this much smarter from a Scottish perspective. We should be retaining these credits within the agricultural sector and, by doing this, we would do two things.

Read more: Carbon audit programme to rollout on NI dairy farms in 2022

First of all, for once we would be in control of an asset that would have huge potential to add value to our primary product, and secondly, for the first time ever, we just might be in the position of being able to set the price for our product, i.e. be a price maker instead of a price taker.

We must be ambitious.

I am convinced that from a global perspective, agriculture in Scotland is producing food in as sustainable a manner as anywhere else in the world. Most countries will not be anywhere close to where we are, and we have facts to now back this up. So that makes us attractive to the multinationals and makes it extremely difficult for us to challenge them.

We know how powerful the wider supply chain can be and, yes, we do need the big players as they are by far our biggest customers.

But on this subject of carbon credits, we must make a stand, or we will look back at this in a few years’ time as a missed opportunity."

(This blog was first published on www.nfus.org.uk)