SOIL Association Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to support a shift towards more nature-friendly farming practices, outlining a number of priorities which it feels should shape the discourse for future farming policy.
The charity has highlighted the 10 priorities for action as detailed in its Grow Back Better manifesto published last year, and is urging the Government to “join the dots” between the interconnected climate, nature and dietary health crises.
Some of the proposals from the manifesto include a commitment to ring-fence funding for agroforestry along with specialist advice and support for farmers, crofters, and land managers – calling for a minimum of 5 per cent of farmed land under agroforestry systems by 2030.
It has urged for a reduction in the overuse of pesticides and inorganic fertilisers via a 20% reduction in nitrogen fertilisers and a 50% reduction in pesticides, as well as a 50% reduction in the use of antimicrobials on farm animals.
Looking at the future replacement for the CAP, it has called for future payments to be clearly linked to the delivery of public goods and has called for investment in regional and local supply chain infrastructure for processing, marketing, and distribution to support direct sales of fresh, local food at affordable prices.
SAS has also called for the Scottish Government to use the planned Good Food Nation Bill to normalise healthy and sustainable diets, use Government buying power to encourage the consumption of more high-quality Scottish produce, and follow the lead of France by setting a percentage reduction target for ultra-processed foods (UPFs) in the national diet.
It has welcomed the recent commitments in the SNP-Green shared draft policy agreement – including a pledge to develop an Organic Food and Farming Action Plan – as well as pledges made in the SNP 2021 election manifesto to encourage all council areas to be part of the Food for Life programme.
Head of policy at Soil Association Scotland, David McKay, commented: “We want to see our Government join the dots between the interconnected climate, nature and dietary health crises.
“At Soil Association Scotland, we believe that requires a transition to agroecology – more nature-friendly farming practices – alongside a shift to healthy and sustainable diets,” he explained.
“We have identified 10 areas that we consider should be priorities for the Government over the next five years.
“On the farming side, we want to see an increase in land farmed organically, ring-fenced funding for agroforestry and targets to reduce the use of nitrogen fertilisers, pesticides and antibiotics in line with the EU Farm to Fork strategy.
“The planned Good Food Nation Bill offers a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of and normalise healthy and sustainable diets – and to use Government buying power to help meet targets for growth in the organic sector and encourage the consumption of more high-quality Scottish food and drink produce,” he continued.
“We also believe that the Scottish Government should follow the lead of France and set a percentage reduction target for ultra processed foods in the national diet.”
Mr McKay pointed out that there is now a “robust body of scientific evidence” associating such products with increased rates of obesity and chronic disease. Other countries around the world including Canada, Brazil, and Uruguay have also recommended a shift away from UPFs in national dietary guidelines.
“Scotland can take the lead within the UK on these issues, and hopefully encourage the UK Government to follow suit,” he concluded.