The group, which is co-chaired by former National Farmers’ Union Scotland (NFUS) president Jim Walker, will consider proposals for alternative ways to support the suckler 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 practices and the restoration and improvement of natural on-farm habitats.
The new group was announced by rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing, who said that the beef sector must “change and adapt” if it was to meet its 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,” said Ewing.
“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 said that while the industry had faced multiple challenges over the past 25 years, its resilience and ability to rise to challenges and adapt was “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,” he said.
“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 to make their businesses more robust.”Top of Form
The Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers (SAMW) welcomed the move as an opportunity to “breathe new life” into the Scotch Beef industry.
“We have been calling on Ministers to do more to arrest the long-term decline in the Scottish suckler herd for a long time,” said Martin Morgan, SAMW executive manager.
“With the entire supply chain needing to play a part in addressing the global climate challenge, there has never been more a pressing time for the Minister to act. We applaud the formation of this new group and look forward to hearing and studying its recommendations.”
Last year the Scottish beef industry revealed it had developed a new strategy for the sector.