URGENT! Scottish Government’s Biodiversity Plan Consultation
To any of our newsletter readers in Scotland there is an important consultation open on the country’s Biodiversity Strategic Framework that we would urge you to take part in. The Tackling the Nature Emergency Consultation is open till 14 th December and while it is long, most questions are optional, so you can choose to only answer the sections you feel most knowledgeable and passionate about.
The Biodiversity Strategic Framework will have a significant influence on how land is managed for the sake of biodiversity when it comes into effect. This makes it all the more important to lend our voices to it and ensure that stockfree methods of land-management are championed.
Metanalysis has shown that livestock exclusion results in an increase in the abundance and diversity of all animals, especially those dependent on plants such as pollinators and herbivores. Incentivising farmers to reduce livestock numbers, particularly on our uplands which are inefficient for food production, and supporting them to become custodians of nature recovery would be a huge win for biodiversity and for climate change mitigation.
An Update on Future Scottish Agricultural Policy
Early this year, the Scottish Government published the Agricultural Reform List of Measures which outlined specific actions that are likely to be included in future support schemes for farmers and crofters. The government selected these actions to meet the goals of high-quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation, and nature restoration. Certainly, there is much to be excited about with many of the actions we have been campaigning for, like keeping the soil continuously covered, reducing synthetic inputs by growing legumes in rotation, creating silvo-arable systems, implementing min/no-till practices, green manures, reducing pesticide use by growing a diversity of native grasses, flowering herbs, and even beetle banks to encourage natural pest predators – all being paid incentives. These are often mainstays of existing stockfree organic farms so it’s great that these farms will be rewarded for what they’re already doing in addition to encouraging other types of farms to move in more sustainable directions.
Unsurprisingly, the actions rewarded on the livestock side of things aren’t quite as bold. Rather than incentivising a reduction in herd numbers (the most straightforward way to meet climate and nature restoration goals), emissions reduction is being sought by inhibiting ruminant methane production through genetic modification, improved animal health, and alternative animal feeds – all of which are still in the experimental phases. Fortunately, there is still time to exert influence in these areas.
In September, a draft of the new Agriculture and Rural Communities (Scotland) Bill was introduced which will require ministers to create a 5-year Rural Support Plan. This support plan will contain the specific details of how farming/crofting, forestry and other forms of land-management will be supported to become more sustainable. This bill, when passed, will also ask ministers to create a ‘Code of Practice on Sustainable and Regenerative Agriculture’, in which ministers will define what they mean by sustainable and regenerative agriculture and what constitutes best practice. The code of practice will also have some form of consultation before being published.
Stockfree Farming was invited to consult on this draft agriculture bill in November. Although it is a ‘framework’ bill – bare scaffolding around which the finer details of rural support will be built – it is exciting to see that many of the measures we have lobbied for are present, or the facility to insert such measures is in place. What will follow is rounds of evidence sessions from key stakeholders, such as Stockfree Farming, as the Rural Affairs and Islands Committee builds the secondary legislation in which the details and conditions of support will be outlined.
The COP28 starts today in Dubai! A couple of weeks ago, Prof Neil Ward of the Agri-food for Net Zero Network – of which Stockfree Farming is a member – interviewed Prof Tim Benton, a globally renowned food system transformation expert on “why the food system has so far been sidelined in the COP process, how this might be about to change, where the power lies, and what is holding back full system transformation”.
You can read the transcript of the interview here where there is also a link to watch the video on YouTube or listen to the podcast. This is a great way to get up-to-speed on what is happening around food in the COP28.
From Livestock Farming to Market Gardening: A Lifelong Journey of the Heart
It has been a delight this year to meet Sivalingam Vasanthakumar, a former Kent sheep farmer who has made the transition to stockfree farming. A heartwarming video and details of Kumar’s journey are on our website. Kumar was able to take advantage of our free stockfree advisory services in the planning and development of a market garden which will supply vegetables to his South Indian Dosa Bar. Mark Dickinson, our advisor based in Orkney, shared his wisdom on creating shelterbelts to protect the market garden’s crops, and Iain Tolhurst spent the day there, advising on a wide variety of topics. Remember you can access our range of experts for a free consultation for all your transition and farming needs.
10 Truths about Transitions
Why don’t more farmers transition? We have been asked this question in a variety of ways many times. The answer is complex and the obstacles to transitioning are numerous. Check out Rebecca’s talk to the Civil Service Vegan Network on ‘10 Truths About Transitions’ where she delves into the complexities of transitioning away from livestock farming.
Oxford Real Farming Conference 2024
There will be some fascinating talks at the ORFC this coming January, with a lineup of 150 speakers discussing a range of topics. The full programme was recently announced and some notable topics include growing fibres and raw materials, diversifying into natural burial grounds, a universal basic income for farmers, and overcoming herbicides in no-till farming. Tickets are still left to attend in-person and online, though the online option won’t cover all the talks being run in-person.
The Organic Research Centre’s New Organic Farm Management Handbook
The 2023 edition of the ORC’s Organic Farm Management Handbook has now been released. The Handbook contains lots of very practical information on all aspects of organic farming in the UK, much of which will be relevant to stockfree farmers.
The World Map of Veganic Growers
The Vegan Organic Network recently created a world map where any veganic growers (whether you’ve got a garden, allotment, or farm) can join for free and add their location to it. It seems like a great way to find local veganic farms to buy from or to get to know fellow growers. Check it out at www.vonmap.uk.
Finally, we’d like to wish you all a peaceful end to 2023, and the hope that you can take a well-earned rest from your labours over the holidays, and face 2024 with a renewed sense of hope and wonder.
Featured Image: Akos Szabo