The ability to vary from EU regulations presents a new year and a new era for Scotland’s crop sector, according to NFU Scotland (NFUS).

NFUS believes the start of 2021 provides the opportunity to make changes to allow our crop sector to meet not just the challenges of the marketplace but also tackle environmental issues including climate change.

Combinable Crops committee chairman Willie Thomson said:

We have already seen alterations to the Greening requirements for 2021, removing the ‘three-crop rule’ targeted at the sort of mono-culture seen in some parts of the EU but not Scotland.

“Three years ago, in our 'Steps to Change' document, we set out a list of more appropriate alternatives to the blanket EU measures that we believe would be better for Scotland.

"We will look to build momentum on these with the Scottish government early in the new year.

“In October 2021, the world will focus on Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference.

Scotland’s crop sector stands ready to engage on how to meet targets while still producing food for a growing population.

"We welcome the recognition by the Scottish government that producing food remains a vital role for Scottish agriculture."

'Vital to avoid blind alleys'

Thomson continued:

"During an emergency when time is short, as it is with climate change, it is vital to avoid blind alleys. Decisions need to be objective, looking at the risk/benefit of every measure.

"That should apply to the use of existing and new technology in the crop sector, including plant protection products and plant breeding techniques.

That sort of risk/benefit approach will involve seeking and accepting advice that is scientifically sound and practical. The need to do that has been amply demonstrated by the current Covid-19 pandemic.

"The crop sector welcomes recent positive steps in that direction with the formation of the Climate Change Group for the crop sector chaired by Andrew Moir and the signing of the Tay City Deal which will provide vital funding to the James Hutton Institute at Invergowrie including the International Barley Hub.

"Full advantage must be taken of Scottish scientific expertise in crop production.

"Climate scientists have said the cost of not addressing global warming would be much higher than taking action to mitigate it.

There must be recognition that costs to change the food system will be high and cannot be borne just by farmers. They will have to be shared by other parts of the supply chain, consumers and the government.

“If that does not happen, crop output here will fall and imports increase. Imports of crops means exporting the carbon emissions involved in their production," he concluded.