Tourism and renewables boost farm incomes

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Latest figures from the EU show that 20 percent of tillage in Scotland uses conservation methods and less than 20 percent of land is left bare during the winter.

The Scottish Government’s chief statistician released figures for Scotland from the EU Farm Structure Survey which show that just over 20 percent of Scottish farms have diversified, the most common way being into tourism.

Just three percent report generating renewable energy for the market but 10 percent create energy for home use.

One in eight holdings report that more than 10 percent of their turnover comes from other activities on the farm than agriculture itself.

The survey includes information on soil conservation and livestock breeding practice.

And the data is used to help monitor greenhouse gas emissions.

When questioned a Scottish Government spokesperson said no Scottish Borders breakdown was available because of the nature of the study.

About a third of holdings kept all their land in general crop rotation

But less than 10 per cent of manure and slurry was incorporated straight away, which would be beneficial for the environment and crop-growth, said officials

Of holdings that bred cattle or sheep, less than 15 per cent used the best available genetic information, such as Estimated Breeding Values (EBVs).

Fifty-three per cent of ewes were mated using a home-bred ram, with one per cent artificially inseminated.

About half of the cows were mated using a brought-in bull, but with 18 per cent mated using artificial insemination.

Concerning farm ownership, 90 per cent of farms are run on a day-to-day basis by the occupier or a member of their family, with just four per cent owned by companies or institutions.

The independent statisticians also stated that four 31 percent of those managing farms in Scotland are aged over 65, with a further 27 per cent aged 55 or over. Just three per cent are under 35, 15 percent are female, and one in six had completed at least two years of agricultural training.

Meanwhile Borders MSP John Lamont last month welcomed a report from an independent Rural Commission set up by the Scottish Conservatives a year ago to look into all aspects of rural life and make recommendations to the Scottish Government.

Among the suggestions are more investment in broadband, further support for tourism in rural areas and consideration of introducing coastal and marine National Parks.

Rural policy should be progressive rather than stagnant, localised rather than centralised, cooperative rather than competitive, reliant on independent rather than public funding with enabling rather than punitive policies, says the document.

It notes: “Present levels of public spending are unsustainable in the long run.

“This applies to all levels of the public sector – local authority, Scottish Government, United Kingdom Government and the European Union.”

In it also are recommendations to reject the Absolute Right to Buy, phase out short limited duration and limited duration tenancies and introduce freedom of contract tenancies, to ‘recognise and address the long term challenges arising from CAP subsidy dependency”, change the Forestry Commission to a Land Use Commission and increase support for forestry.

Mr Lamont said, while not all recommendations will be adopted as party policy: “When it comes to important issues such as access to broadband, areas such as ours often lose out, and I am delighted that the report has looked into ways that this situation can improve.

“Along with suggestions to improve tourism in the region, and create coastal National Parks, this report has suggestions that could really benefit the Borders.”