The First Minister has announced that Scottish farmers will continue to receive most of their existing subsidies to grow food.
The National Farmers Union (NFU) has cautiously welcomed the plans, saying they bring much needed certainty as they lose the European Union subsidies in the wake of Brexit.
Humza Yousaf has said that 70% of future support for farmers will be direct payments.
Farmers said they were glad the funding measures had been continued but warned of continuing pressures on Scotland’s agricultural sector.
Scottish farmers happy about subsidies but import concerns remain
“We are still concerned going forward looking at the quality of food that we produce, which is a very high quality, low carbon footprint that we have, and the foreign imports flooding in to our country at a far lower standard than ours,” livestock farmer Russell Rennie told STV News.
Arable farmer Scott Campbell welcomed the 70% of funding direct to farmers but said some questions remained unanswered.
“The 30% of greening is quite a major concern for me,” he said.
“I think we’re already very green, very sustainable. I don’t really see how we can improve that.”
The announcement comes after environmentalists called for the majority of subsidies to be used to tackle climate change and nature loss.
But the NFU said that could bankrupt farmers and lead to agricultural land being abandoned.
Speaking at the union’s conference, Yousaf confirmed that most subsidies will be earmarked for direct payments to help farmers produce food until 2027 in a new four tier framework.
He added that funding for the first two tiers will constitute at least 70% of the overall funding envelope to support farming, crofting and land management.
The remaining cash will be for targeted measures including creating wetlands or restoring peatlands.
Farmers would be “expected to deliver more for nature and climate for that funding” under the new agricultural policy.
The First Minister reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment that there would be “no cliff edges” in support as Scotland transitions between existing schemes and the introduction of the new four tier framework.
NFU president Martin Kennedy said: “We welcome the First Minister delivering clarity on future levels of support to be delivered under Scotland’s future agricultural policy.
“Equally important was the First Minister’s recognition of the economic importance of our sector and his stated ambition that he wants to see our production of high-quality food and drink grow.
“The huge unknown in all of this is what agricultural funding will be made available to Scotland by Westminster and that we have no certainties beyond the end of the current parliament.
“We can have the best agricultural policy in the world but if there’s no meaningful funding to deliver it, that would be a cliff edge for our members.”
However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has said that “much more” of the budget should be focused on supporting the sector do more for nature and climate.
The charity said: “It is right that public money is used to help them respond to the biggest challenge of our time.
“Currently, 80% of the farming budget is direct payments to farmers and the new proposal suggests they will be spending 70% of the budget in this way by 2027.
“This is a small step in the right direction – it may allow for funding increases for things like nature restoration, innovation, advice and knowledge exchange – but it is nowhere near enough. The Government’s own analysis shows direct payments are a poor way to spend public money.
“Much more of the budget needs to be focused on supporting the farming sector in more innovative ways, to help farmers and crofters adapt to evolving markets whilst reducing climate emissions and playing their part in restoring nature.
“We fear that today’s announcement will hold back those farmers who are ready to do more.
“We support Scottish farmers and crofters and think they should be supported financially. But the Government can and must do a better job allocating funding to allow for nature and climate friendly farming.”
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