Rural funding scheme extended.
The Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) will reopen for funding in 2022 to support the ambition of doubling the amount of land under organic management, set out in the Programme for Government 2021-22.
Farmers, crofters and land managers will be able to apply for support for conversion to and maintenance of organic land, alongside a suite of other measures aimed at promoting low carbon farming and protecting the environment.
Scottish Ministers have also agreed to deliver future rounds of the fund up to and including 2024, to provide ongoing certainty in line with a wider campaign to prioritise local and organic produce in public sector menus as part of Scotland's green recovery.
Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon said:
Our vision for the future of rural Scotland is a positive one. We want Scotland to be a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture. As part of that, we are committed to supporting farmers, crofters, and land managers to support and deliver nature restoration.
AECS provides important funding to the sector to help achieve this commitment and I have visited many farms, including the organic Peelham Farm recently, which have benefited from AECS and are playing their part in helping to restore and enhance nature. This will help to deliver increased biodiversity, improved soils and contribute to mitigating climate change at the same time as providing high quality, locally produced food.
We have already invested 213 million in the scheme and we are committed to not only delivering a full round in 2022, but to extending the scheme right up to the end of the period of stability.
Biodiversity Minister Lorna Slater said:
It's great news that farmers and crofters across the country will be able to apply for funding over the next three years to help combat the crises of climate change and nature loss. This is essential while we explore other ways in which farmers can be supported in their roles delivering a nature-rich Scotland.
This is a wonderful opportunity to improve the state of vulnerable wildlife and habitats, improve water quality, and reduce flood risks, improve soil health, among other environmental benefits. Projects can be as diverse as improving public access in rural areas, protecting the habitat for our wildlife such as corn bunting, corncrake and chough, restoring peatland, supporting the management of protected sites, or converting to an organic system.
Our farmers and crofters play a vital role in caring for and restoring nature across Scotland. I'm really pleased that this funding will help them continue this important work.
The funding of new rounds of the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) until 2024 is still subject to future budgetary decisions.