Revised Agricultural Reform Route Map
As part of the Scottish Government’s Vision for Agriculture, a second edition of the Agricultural Reform Route Map has been published setting out the wider land and agricultural change plan for Scotland from 2023 through to 2032.
In 2025, as part of the process for changing to a new agricultural support framework from 2026, the following measures will be introduced:
- The foundations of a whole farm plan, including soil testing, animal health and welfare declaration, carbon audits, biodiversity audits and supported business planning.
- New conditions to the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme linked to calving intervals to encourage livestock keepers to reduce the emissions intensity of their cattle production systems.
- New protections for peatlands and wetlands.
Basic payment & greening
While greening requirements will not change in 2025, aimed at making businesses more efficient, new conditions will be introduced to the Basic Payment Scheme, making this support conditional on: meeting essential standards in farming activity; climate response; biodiversity gain; whilst safeguarding animal health and welfare standards and workers’ rights.
In 2026, the Basic Payment Scheme will end and ‘Base Support’ and ‘Enhanced Support’ measures will be introduced.
The recently published Calving Intervals in Scotland’s Cattle Population report highlights that the mean calving interval of suckler beef in Scotland is ~ 400 days, with 12% of animals having a calving interval of 14 months or longer (based on the analysis of CTS calving data from 2015-2021).
Calving interval is a key efficiency metric for beef production systems. Longer calving intervals equate to lower numbers of calf sales per annum and higher greenhouse gas emissions per kg of beef sold off the farm.
The free-to-use MyHerdStats tool allows farmers and crofters to view performance indicators for their herds. Identifying opportunities for improvements to herd efficiency, including reducing calving intervals will help beef producers reduce the total emissions from their production systems.
Protecting Scotland’s Peatlands
Peatlands cover around 2 million hectares, or one quarter, of Scotland and are of national and global significance linked to their ability to store carbon, support nature and reduce flood risk.
Following on from the commitment to spend £250 million restoring 250,000 ha of degraded peatlands by 2030, as part of Just Transition to net zero by 2045, the Scottish Government has announced that protection of wetlands and peatlands will be part of the planned new Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions (GAECS 2). Further details will be published later this summer as part of the Agricultural Reform Route Map.
Emergency approval of Asulam (Asulox) for bracken control denied
Following the recommendations of the Expert Committee on Pesticides and the HSE, the Scottish Government is not authorising the use of Asulox this season due to the risks it poses to the environment and human health, siting that the potential adverse effects of Asulox use outweigh the potential benefits.
Although as bracken contains a range of toxins to deter herbivores, it is rarely consumed by livestock; the EU now considers Asulam to meet the criteria for endocrine disruption in humans. It also presents a high risk to aquatic organisms, which is exacerbated by aerial spraying. Equally, it is viewed that spraying in upland areas carries a potentially high risk of contaminating drinking water, especially as upland reservoirs do not have the capacity to treat this type of pollution.
While other chemicals can be used for bracken control, they are less effective and physical methods including rolling and cutting are only suited to controlling bracken in level areas and not on steep ground where Asulox has proved to be most effective for hill and upland farms.
For AECS 2023, contracts previously approving chemical control of bracken will now change to allowing mechanical or manual control only. Further information is available on the SASA website.
Deposit Return Scheme delayed
The launch of Scotland’s Deposit Return Scheme designed to incentivise recycling, reduce litter and help tackle climate change by reducing the amount of single-use drinks containers going to landfill, will be delayed until at least October 2025.
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