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Agribusiness News May 2024 – Policy Brief

1 May 2024

Agricultural Reform Route Map update

In preparation for the gradual transition to the new agricultural support framework which will start in 2027, the latest update from the Scottish Government puts some meat on the bones of the Agricultural Reform Route Map.   The latest edition provides further details on how agricultural support will change in Scotland from next year, and the actions that farmers and crofters will have to take in order to be eligible for the new support payments.

For suckler cow units, currently eligible for the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme (SSBSS), a key change will be that from 2025, calves will only be eligible for payment if their dam’s calving interval is 410 days or less.  For example, a suckler cow calving on the 1st of March this year, needs to have produced her calf by the 14th of April next year for her next calf to be eligible for a calf payment.  Simple from a theoretical perspective,  however, not so straightforward in practice as heifers can take longer to get back in calve, as can cows with twins, or where there has been a difficult calving.

For businesses with two calving periods who allow ‘good’ cows and heifers who fail to get back in calf to slip round to the next block; you need to weigh up giving them another chance to conceive versus the loss of next year’s calf premium as the calving period will then exceed 410 days.

While advance notification will be given, the Scottish Government has also announced that in future years, the maximum calving interval could potentially be reduced by another 10 days.  So,  if you think that you may lose calf payments due to extended calving periods, seek advice now with regards herd nutrition, replacement heifer management and health and welfare planning.

While under Preparing for Sustainable Farming – Whole Farm Plans, most people are now familiar with the support funding available for carbon audits, soil analysis and Animal Health and Welfare plans; two new initiatives are going to be introduced – Biodiversity Audits and Integrated Pest Management Plans.  Further details about the new Integrated Pest Management plans are available on the Plant Health Centre website.  From 2025, in return for eligibility for basic payments; farmers will have to declare on their IACS Single Application Form that they have carried out at least two activities that are relevant to their business.

In addition to which, linked to GAEC No. 6 – Maintenance of soil organic matter, new Cross Compliance conditions are being introduced for wetlands and peatlands to help protect vital carbon stores.

From 2025, the new standards will prohibit a range of activities from being carried out on peatland and wetland areas including:

  • Ploughing and cultivation linked to new drainage and/or the maintenance of existing drainage systems as this could cause further drying out of peatland areas.
  • Also, activities which damage vegetation causing soils to be exposed resulting in the potential loss of soil carbon.

The new standards will apply to land with peat soils more than 50 cm in depth with a near natural vegetative cover, and also to wetland habitats.

Detailed guidance on all the changes being introduced for 2025 and further information on changes that will be introduced in 2026 will be announced this summer.

New consultation on cattle identification

With the aim of modernising how Scotland’s cattle are tagged, identified and traced; the consultation is seeking views on updating the current non-computerised system with full Electronic Identification (EID) including the use of an online register for cattle, fitting all newborn calves with electronic ear tags  and ending paper cattle passports for EID identified animals.  The overarching aims are to simplify management and improve safety for farmers and crofters.  The consultation on cattle identification and traceability in Scotland (accessible here) closes on 27 June 2024.

Progressing to Net Zero

Despite the Scottish Government’s announcement that it is stepping back from its 2030 target of reducing emissions by 75%; to meet net zero by 2045, new proposals for agriculture include consulting on introducing a carbon tax on large estates to incentivise peatland restoration, tree planting and renewable energy generation and introducing a pilot project aimed at reducing emissions from livestock through the use of special feedstuffs. In addition to which, new legislation will be brought forward to introduce multi-year ‘Carbon budgets’ replacing the current, annual targets.  Further details are available online here.


Christine Beaton,

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