30th May 2024

Collaboration to help propel Scotland’s red meat sector forward

By Sarah Millar, Chief Executive at Quality Meat Scotland.

Over the last few weeks the hot word has been 'collaboration'. Proper, old fashioned, 'let’s sit down and agree the best way to do this' collaboration; across a number of key areas for us. We've collaborated on some big new projects; on consultation responses; parliamentary receptions; briefing papers, and much, much more.

It hasn't been easy. Proper collaboration is hard. It takes time, it requires moving on a timeline that isn't always your own, it means being prepared to compromise on detail for the greater good of the wider objective.

But when it comes together, it’s extremely satisfying to look back over the last few weeks of hard yards and see some of the big pieces come together, all with a core purpose of delivering better, delivering more for the businesses through our red meat supply chain.

One of the best examples of that focus launched in mid-May, and will see the intense pressure faced by farmers to deliver on environmental targets addressed through a new collaborative pilot. Launched by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), with support from QMS, it will individually carbon baseline up to 170 farms across Great Britain.

The £2.875m pilot focuses on accurate measurements to reveal the net carbon position (the balance of emissions and carbon removals/stocks) of farm businesses, including carbon sequestration potential. It will provide a dataset which shows the range and variety of results from individual farms, which will allow the industry to move away from relying on national and international averages.

By measuring greenhouse gas emissions, landscape and soil carbon stocks, water run-off, as well as using soil analysis of individual farms, the data collected will help to demonstrate the real environmental benefits of British agricultural products, both at home and in export markets. It will also provide a more accurate reflection of its position and progress towards Net Zero.

The pilot will allow farming to demonstrate how it delivers a collection of public goods, benefitting all of society, such as improving water quality, reducing greenhouse gases, building carbon stocks, enhancing soil health and supporting biodiversity both above and below ground. The ambition is that baselining should be rolled out to every farm across the country.

This pioneering project means we have a unique opportunity to showcase tangible evidence of what we already know: that Scotch Beef, Scotch Lamb and Specially Selected Pork actively contribute to landscape preservation and carbon sequestration as well as food production. Working with AHDB on this will allow us to underline the positive environmental credentials of food production in Scotland - a tangible, positive, wide-spread and lasting outcome from close collaboration.

That is exactly what we aim to achieve with another collaborative venture we are involved in – the newly launched FAST, or Food and Agriculture Stakeholder Taskforce. While it first met back in autumn 2022, it is now a formal collaboration of 16 of Scotland’s key agricultural organisations, and launched at a parliamentary reception at Holyrood last week sponsored by Elena Whitham MSP and attended by 130 guests, including many MSPs.

FAST’s aim is to identify the most effective proactive and reactive action for Scotland’s food production and farming industry in response to opportunities and threats through changing policy. The collaboration’s formal launch struck a strong note, with next generation farmers Nicola Wordie from Aberdeenshire and Cammy Wilson from Ayrshire speaking about what Scotland’s farming sector needs from government. They prompted plenty of discussion with MSPs about promoting sustainable and profitable agricultural production in Scotland – a positive step forward at a critical time for our industry.

Collaboration can be wonderful – and at times it can be tough. But the ability to combine expertise and enthusiasm with seeking value for money means there is often no better way of being able to tackle ambitious, game-changing projects, or to speak as one to amplify a crucial message and ensure it is really heard by decision-makers.

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