Funding awarded for farming to help tackle climate change

MORE than £7m has been awarded to 517 rural businesses in 2023 from the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS).

Overall, £27m will be paid over the lifetime of the contracts to applicants.

The money is aimed to help support land management activities that will benefit nature and mitigate against climate change.

Farmers can now apply for the 2024/25 AECS funding round, with a range of options to support biodiversity and climate friendly farming activities and land management practices.

The AECS funding is aimed to support land management activities to benefit nature. Photo by Jan Kop?iva on Unsplash

More than £4m will also be made available to fund slurry storage and irrigation lagoons in order to improve water quality in rural areas.

Farmers and land managers can now apply for larger funding grants with an additional uplift available to those based in Island communities.

This will be the final year that support will be available for slurry storage.

Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said: “AECS remains a key part of support to farmers, crofters, and land managers in delivering nature restoration.

“This year all eligible applications to AECS were approved which is a record approval rate.

“This shows that despite significant financial pressures, farmers and land managers still recognise the very real need to mitigate against both nature loss and climate change.

“I would strongly encourage farmers and crofters to apply for the expanded range of options that the scheme now supports.

“This approach will give farmers and land managers greater flexibility when it comes to helping improve our landscape to mitigate against nature loss.”

Francesca Osowska, Chief Executive of NatureScot said: “Scotland’s farmers and crofters play a vital role in tackling the nature-climate crisis.

“By successfully using their knowledge and skills to farm in a nature-friendly way, they ensure that their businesses are sustainable…both environmentally and economically.

“AECS funding is an important investment in sustainable farming in Scotland, with about 20% of our land being managed for nature and climate benefits under the scheme.

“Supporting farmers and crofters to farm with nature has both local and global impacts.

“[These include] supporting wildlife, healthy soils and clean water while helping Scotland meet national and international targets to reduce biodiversity loss and tackle climate change.”

The AECS was launched in 2015 and aims to promote practices which protect and enhance Scotland’s natural heritage, improve water quality, manage flood risk and mitigate and adapt to climate change.

Some examples of the activities that AECS supports include helping agricultural businesses convert to organic farming practices and the creation and restoration of hedgerows.

It also supports the control of invasive non-native species and improving habitat variety.

The scheme also halps create and maintain habitats for specific species such as corncrakes, corn buntings and waders.

Funding for the slurry storage and irrigation lagoon options has been underpinned by the Agricultural Transformation Fund (ATF).