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GrASTech Project

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2020.

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Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government how it plans to support the GrASTech project, which aims to develop existing livestock farming technology to monitor and reduce methane production. (S5O-04107)

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

GrASTech is a cross-Europe collaborative project to tackle the issue of methane emissions from livestock, which is a topic of significant interest for both the Scottish Government and Scottish agriculture. The Scottish Government currently invests £7.2 million annually in longer-term agricultural and rural research at Scotland’s Rural College. That investment underpins the SRUC’s success in securing the £250,000 grant provided by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for GrASTech. Scottish Government officials will work with DEFRA to ensure that the results of the project are used to help inform our future policy in that area.

Photo of Peter Chapman Peter Chapman Conservative

I declare an interest as a partner in a farming business. The GrASTech project aims to develop an accurate way of measuring the methane produced by livestock reared outside on grass. Ninety per cent of Scotland’s cattle are outdoors for a significant amount of the year and it is hoped that the project will identify sensible and practical measures that the farming industry can use to continue its already substantial efforts in the fight against climate change. I hope that the project will also produce hard facts and dispel some of the myths that have been circulating regarding the farming sector’s effect on the environment.

What measures is the Scottish Government taking to further support farmers in their fight against climate change and what does it intend to do to challenge some of the dishonesty circulating regarding the industry’s effect on the environment?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

We are doing a number of things there anent. First, I welcome the range of on-going activity, including Quality Meat Scotland’s better grazing project, which works with livestock farmers across Scotland. I have mentioned our substantial support for the SRUC. I have had the opportunity to discuss with farmers the work of the monitor farm on improving the quality of grass. I have also seen improved agronomy techniques in minimising the use of fertiliser.

We will soon be bringing forward more details on plans to further encourage sustainable and low-carbon farming. I am very pleased that it is a topic on which members across the chamber share an approach to ensure not only that our farmers are producing some of the highest-quality meat in the world, but that they are doing so in a way that is sustainable and friendly to the planet. I am pleased that that meets with approval from members across the Parliament.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

A short supplementary question, please.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary will be aware that many farmers and crofters are already shifting to a grass-fed approach for their livestock, as it is more sustainable and efficient. How is the Scottish Government further supporting that activity?

Photo of Fergus Ewing Fergus Ewing Scottish National Party

Emma Harper is right to say that our livestock farmers play a key role in protecting our permanent grassland and the historic carbon sinks beneath it. We want all farmers and crofters to make the best use of their grasslands, produce high-quality food, improve sustainability and help to achieve our long-term environmental and climate targets.

There is a lot more that I could say, Presiding Officer, but as you know, I always try to be brief.