A new report by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has said that Scottish agriculture may need to adopt some “radical” approaches to maintain productivity growth and enhance its resilience as the Covid-19 pandemic worsens the external pressures the industry is facing in the build-up to Brexit.
The Scottish-Government-commissioned report, titled Boosting Productivity Growth in Scottish Agriculture, identifies a broad range of interventions that could be explored to support growth in productivity for Scottish agriculture.
The interventions proposed in the report range from “radical” approaches around rethinking the purpose and targeting of support funding, to creating a learner fund for each farmer to identify their own training needs, and upscaling the current monitor and demonstration farm network.
The key measures and policies to boost productivity growth in Scottish Agriculture include:
Policy interventions such as support for change and provision of advice, education and research engagement for change.
Technological interventions, such as adoption of new technologies or techniques, or applying alternative approaches to uplift productivity.
Management interventions, which include farmer decision making and farm planning in terms of the ability to switch the mix of inputs and outputs, or increase in scale.
Adoption of best practice, which would minimise the range of performance by farmer adoption of current practices and approaches that would increase economic or technical efficiency.
Project lead Andrew Barnes, a professor of rural resource economics, who has been studying Scottish rural productivity for over 20 years said that he has never seen such pressure from the potential shocks that the current external factors may have on the structure and sustainability of the industry.
He said: “This report sets out some blue sky thinking towards what could work in Scotland and, while some a quite radical, I would argue now is the time to follow through on how we support this and the next farming generation going forward.
“At one point, a number of things once considered radical are now very much mainstream, including using renewables, the smoking ban and electronic sheep tagging. Today’s radical is tomorrow’s norm.”
The full report can be found here.