Written Evidence submitted by the National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland) (SH0032)


NFU Scotland is delighted to provide a response to the Environmental, Food, Rural Affairs Committee inquiry on soil health. Our submission sets out information on work already underway in Scotland regarding soil health and does not answer questions relating to policy development for England.


As the UK is transitioning to a new post-CAP agricultural policy, in Scotland, the Agriculture Reform Implementation Oversight Board (ARIOB), co-chaired by Cabinet Secretary Mairi Gougeon MSP and NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy, is overseeing the reforms to agricultural policy.


Healthy soils drive agricultural production. Good soil stewardship can store carbon and improve efficiency. Soil health must be at the heart of farm decision making, and we are working with government to make this a reality.


The National Test Programme, the first step towards a new funding system, was announced by the Scottish Government in October 2021. Supported by around £51 million between 2022 and 2024, it covers carbon auditing and soil testing and it is expected that both of these will be required to unlock funding support in the future.


Carbon auditing and soil testing will assess the existing carbon stocks in our soils and create a national baseline to establish an accurate measurement of how much carbon is sequestered by our crops and improved grassland.  The programme will enable the sector to highlight the positive benefits for the environment that soil health, crop rotation and grazing management deliver. It will also assist nutrient management and drive productivity and efficiency on farms and crofts at a time when all businesses are facing an unprecedented surge in input costs.   


All farmers and crofters are being encouraged to take up this opportunity. NFU Scotland welcomed this initiative, which is entitled ‘Preparing for Sustainable Farming’ as it will help the sector to continue to reduce emissions and improve efficiency. It also recognises that farmers and crofters are taking their responsibilities around sustainable production seriously, further enhancing the world-wide reputation of our food and drink sector while tackling climate change and enhancing biodiversity. Further guidance on the scheme is available at: https://www.ruralpayments.org/topics/all-schemes/preparing-for-sustainable-farming--psf-/.

February 2023