Scots government to fund five-year Monitor Farm Programme

Scotland’s Monitor Farm Programme is to receive five years of additional support from Scottish government, rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon has announced.

Speaking at the NFU Scotland online conference on Friday (11 February), Ms Gougeon confirmed Scottish government support for a new five-year monitor farm programme which will begin this year.

But she did not reveal the total funding package.

“The Scottish Monitor Farm Programme has significant credibility in its long history with improving knowledge exchange and community co-operation and collaboration throughout the life span of their previous programmes,” she told delegates tuning in online.

See also: NFUS president launches blistering attack on farm policy

“I want that to continue to help shape farming’s future,” she stressed.

The new programme will involve detailed data collection, and enhancing knowledge, skills and competence through collaborative industry buy-in, Ms Gougeon said.

“In particular, the programme is expected to provide the information that is essential for driving Scotland’s food and drink sector forward, through strengthening rural economies and meeting Scotland’s climate change targets,” she added.

The Monitor Farm Scotland initiative is managed by Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) and AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, with funding from the Scottish government.

Monitor Farms help improve the profitability, productivity and sustainability of producers through practical demonstrations, sharing best practice and the discussion of up-to-date issues.

QMS chairman Kate Rowell said the extension of the service was “fantastic news”.

New veterinary service

Ms Gougeon also revealed she had “given the green light” for the Scottish Veterinary Service (SVS) to be progressed – which was part of the Scottish National Party’s manifesto commitment “to meet our needs across the public and private sector for land and marine-based animal health”.

The new service will replace the animal health and welfare functions currently delivered by the Animal and Plant Health Agency in Scotland.

Ms Gougeon said the Scottish government will explore whether official controls in meat establishments by Food Standards Scotland (FSS), and animal heath enforcement by local authorities should also be delivered by the new SVS.

Slurry investment

Meanwhile, Ms Gougeon also announced £5m in capital grants to assist in purchasing low emission slurry spreading equipment and slurry store covers to help farmers comply with new slurry rules.

NFU Scotland vice-president Robin Traquair told Farmers Weekly the funding was “woefully short” of what was needed to help reduce ammonia emissions and the union “would go back to Scottish government to request more help”.

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