£14 million investment in sustainable agriculture
A total of 680 rural businesses with projects that protect the environment and mitigate the impacts of climate change will share more than £14 million this year from the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS).
During a visit to Stagehall Farm in Selkirkshire to see first-hand how AECS funding will support their conversion to organic farming, Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon also announced the next funding round, which will open from the end of January.
The forthcoming round will target agri-environment support, organics and slurry storage options, and will support the ambition to double the amount of land under organic management by 2026.
In addition, this year’s £5 million Agriculture Transformation Fund will extend support for slurry storage. This support, which surpasses the previous targeted support that has been available under AECS, will help the sector meet the regulatory requirements introduced to improve the storage of slurry and digestate on farms.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:
“AECS continues to play a significant role in making Scotland a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
“Our £14 million of support will help hundreds of farmers, land managers and world-class producers to thrive, while backing our climate change agenda and our response to the biodiversity crisis.
“The £5 million in additional support we are announcing today will also help improve the management of slurry and digestate on farms, helping to reduce harmful ammonia emissions.”
NatureScot Chief Executive Francesca Osowska said:
“The vital work of farmers and crofters is integral to building a nature-rich future for Scotland.
“As well as tackling climate change, by moving to a more environmentally sustainable approach, farmers and crofters can help the long-term economic sustainability and resilience of their businesses.
“These important projects will bring many environmental benefits, such as flood prevention, healthy soils, improved water quality and increased organic farming, while protecting both the habitats and wildlife that surround us.”
As part of changes to AECS, the area cap will be suspended for the conversion to, and maintenance of, organic farmland for AECS 2023 applications.
The following elements will not be available in the 2023 application round:
- Improving Public Access (IPA)
- Pond Creation
- Muirburn and Heather Cutting
- Restoring Drystone or Flagstone Dykes
- Bracken Treatment (mechanised and chemical)
In addition, the option for Creation of Hedgerows will be limited to 500 metres per application.
The Agricultural Transformation Fund (ATF) is intended to underpin support for the agricultural sector to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve efficiency and enhance Scotland’s natural environment through the period of transition.
This support will help the sector meet the requirements of The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021.
To simplify application and administrative procedures, ATF support for slurry storage will be accessed using the existing slurry storage option which is available under AECS. The £5 million fund will extend the available support to all areas, other than Nitrate Vulnerable Zones.