Director of Policy's Blog - 24 May 2019

2030…We have a decade to change but how do we meet the targets set for food production and the environment asks Director of Policy, Jonnie Hall?

Those that know me have usually have a good idea of the clutter in my mind.  And, although I’m simple to read, quite a lot of that clutter relates to the complex political, physical and financial challenges facing our industry.  

The obvious challenges we face include Brexit and the issues around trade, people and future support; dysfunctional supply chains characterised by inequitable margins and, the here and now of current agricultural policy and its delivery. The challenges have never been so conspiring as to be so daunting.  

But in the last few weeks, one question has been relentlessly chewing at me.  

It’s a straightforward question, but there’s no straightforward answer.  It focuses on the year 2030 – essentially only a decade away.  And a decade that will continue to be littered with unknowns, uncertainties and inevitable complications of existing challenges.  

The question is: How will Scotland’s farmers and crofters pump prime a food and drinks sector expected to double its turnover by 2030 while at the very same time as playing a lead role in meeting an interim 70 per cent reduction in emissions target by the same date?

Ambition 2030, launched in 2017, essentially sets a target for Scotland’s farming, fishing, food and drinks sectors to drive profitable, responsible growth across the industry, doubling its size to £30 billion in turnover by 2030.

And now Scotland is set to legislate to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to ‘net zero’ by 2045 after receiving fresh advice from the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).  But as well as the 2045 aim, the CCC advises interim targets of a 70 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 (and a 90 per cent drop by 2040).

Destinations have been set. Our industry has been told what is expected of us and where society wants us to get to.  But what’s missing are the policy tools required to get there, let alone the political direction.

2030 is effectively only ten years away.  Yet I look back over the last ten years at how recent and current policy regimes have all too often incentivised inertia, stifled innovation and productivity, and undermined resilience.

Separately, these are two huge challenges.  Together, they mark a defining moment for Scottish agriculture and, in my mind, must also be a watershed for Scottish agricultural policy.

In my mind, these may be ‘parallel’ political issues, but in practice they’re non-binary - complementary actions that drive productivity can and will yield climate change benefits.

Instead of blunt area-based payments, the sooner we move to effective action-based support, the sooner farmers and crofters can drive productivity gains to improve their bottom lines while delivering higher value produce to the food and drinks sectors whose growth hinges on provenance and quality.

If we’re to have any chance of success, then Scottish agriculture must be given the tools to succeed.  Agricultural policy, and the regulatory regime we must adhere to, must change to enable efficient, effective and environmentally beneficial practice simultaneously - and it needs to change soon.

Stability is a must in the very short term. But change must be instigated as a matter of urgency if Scottish agriculture is to adjust, adapt and then deliver.  Only then can Scotland’s farmers and crofters be enabled to play their unique and critical role in the future economic, environmental and social prosperity of Scotland – by 2030 and beyond.

Author: Jonnie Hall

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Kelvin Pate

1797 days 1 hr ago

Recognise Green Carbon (recycled) vs Red Carbon (new to environment) Into the calculations
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About The Author

Jonnie Hall

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy Jonnie Hall has been involved with agricultural and rural policy for more than 30 years. He is a graduate of the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne (BSc. Honours in Agricultural Economics and an M.Phil. in agricultural policy research) and Oxford University (MSc. in Agricultural Economics). Following an academic and consultancy career, Jonnie joined what was the Scottish Landowners’ Federation in January 1998, leading their policy work on agriculture and land use issues. Jonnie then joined NFU Scotland in May 2007, and has overall responsibility for the policy work of NFU Scotland as Director of Policy and Member Services. He has served on all key rural and agricultural policy stakeholder groups.

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