Halt on Russian fertilisers creates opportunity for Scottish organic farmers – The National

RUSSIA’S vicious and unlawful invasion of Ukraine is causing serious disruption in agriculture across Europe, a sector which relies heavily on Russian fertilisers.
Farmers who gave up the traditional model of raising both arable and livestock lang syne are looking again at introducing a mix to their land or doing “straw for dung” deals with neighbours.
In the middle of this, a niche group of producers are quietly entering the mainstream: Scotland’s Organic Stakeholders Group (SOSG) has launched an ambitious and, they say, achievable plan to embed organic food and drink into our food systems.
“There is huge potential in the market. The organic standard is legally binding so it is a brand you can trust,” says Ross Paton, Chair of SOSG and a dairy farmer with a whopping 900 acres of clover-laden, biodiverse farmland near Castle Douglas. “We are always trying to find new ways of doing things, using natural processes with innovative technologies.”
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Ross is keen to emphasise the importance of Scotland maintaining convergence with the EU, meaning we stay aligned with the European Union’s standards and policies, crucial for keeping that important export market.
The EU has set a target of at least 25% of its agricultural land to be farmed organically by 2030 and has produced an action plan which describes organic farmers as “the pioneers of the sustainable agriculture of the future”.
For those of us keen to see Scotland become a member of the European Union again, it is encouraging too that the Scottish Government seems to be taking the idea seriously.
The initiative was launched at the Royal Highland Show with many of Scotland’s leading industry professionals taking a close interest. Scotland Food & Drink committed to incorporating organics into their upcoming strategy, Ambition 2030, and the Scottish Government spoke of the SOSG report being a great foundation for a next action plan for organics.
“We recognise the crucial role that organic farming methods play in our drive towards nature restoration and a resilient rural economy,” a Scottish Government spokesperson said.
‘WE are committed to seeing more organic farming and organic produce for sale in Scotland and are working with the sector to establish a new Organic Food and Farming Action Plan.
“We are continuing to invest through the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) and have already made £30 million available. Within AECS, we aim to support farmers and groups of farmers to convert their land to organic status and maintain organic farming methods throughout the country. This will assist in delivering increased biodiversity, improved soils and contribute to mitigating climate change at the same time as providing high quality, locally produced food.”
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It is the importance of feeding communities in sustainable ways which drives Antonia Ineson, a small-scale market gardener at Myreside Organics, in Perthshire, where she grows fresh produce in a field bursting with biodioversity.
“I would like to see cities encircled by rings of market gardens providing local food in season. There will always be a need for some imports, but we need a systems change where we develop Scottish organic production, the supply chain, and the market in step,” Antonia explains.
Procurement schemes have shown it is possible for local authorities in Scotland to provide organic food at the same prices as that produced conventionally, but price parity is a distant dream for those of us who rely on the supermarkets.
However, organic veg box schemes can be found across much of Scotland, delivering fresh local produce to your door which often lasts better and can be cheaper than similar supermarket options. We might not be able to change our nation’s food system overnight, but we can, perhaps, change the way we shop.
Ruth Watson is the founder of the Keep Scotland the Brand campaign.
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