Co-chaired by former National Farmers Union Scotland (NFU Scotland) president Jim Walker, the group will consider proposals for alternative ways to help the sector mitigate its environmental impact and identify practical ways in which it can reduce its emissions.
The group will also produce recommendations to improve the efficiency, productivity and profitability of Scottish beef, including changes to breeding and feeding practises and the restoration and improvement of natural on-farm habitats.
Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Our beef sector must change and adapt if we are to meet our ambitious climate change and biodiversity targets.
“While our Programme for Government has already set out steps in response to the climate emergency, I have asked Jim Walker to chair a farmer-led group to specifically look at what our beef suckler herd needs to do and bring forward initial proposals next month.
“I have been clear that our farmers, crofters and land managers are part of the climate solution. But equally, I am clear that achieving our legally binding commitments will require everyone to consider what they can do to ensure they play their part in driving the sector towards a low-carbon, sustainable future.”
Walker added: “The industry has faced multiple challenges over the last 25 years and its resilience and ability to rise to these challenges and adapt is remarkable. Providing progressive beef farmers with the tools to make their businesses more productive and efficient, alongside measures to improve on farm emissions to help fight climate change, is yet another chapter in this story and is potentially game changing.
“Naturally reared, climate friendly Scotch suckler bred beef needs to be differentiated from imports and dairy beef to give consumers a clear choice. This initiative will give those farmers who want to be involved a real chance of delivering this, helping make their businesses more robust.”
The group was welcomed by the farming community in Scotland. NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “Climate change is a critically important issue for every sector of Scottish agriculture. Emissions from farming have significantly reduced since 1990, but it is clear that there is more to do if we are to continue that progress and meet ambitious emissions reduction targets set by Scottish Government.
“In our iconic beef sector, that process already has a foothold. Over the last five years, there’s been a significant increase in the number of Scottish beef farmers and crofters undertaking carbon audits, bolstered by support from the Scottish Government. That clearly shows the industry is committed to do its part to tackle the challenge head-on and ensure that it is a global leader in producing climate friendly beef.
“This announcement, and the firm intention for Jim and the group to produce an initial report next month, builds momentum following last week’s commitment from the Scottish Government of £40 million to support a new Agricultural Transformation Programme. That will allow Scottish farmers, crofters and land managers to make plans for investing in a low emissions future and assist them in making that transition. Scottish farmers are part of the solution to climate change and we will welcome any initiatives that support this.”
GlobalMeatNews will be hosting a webinar on sustainability within the meat industry on 3 March 2020. For commercial opportunities associated with this webinar, contact Aline Henderson. To register for the webinar, click here.