Technology is vital to address the economic and environmental challenges that the agriculture industry faces. We continue to offer meaningful technical and financial support in that area.
For example, the Farm Advisory Service offers a range of high-quality advice to facilitate the uptake of technology in order to maximise profitability and enhance sustainability. Technology-based projects have the opportunity to apply for funding through the knowledge transfer and innovation fund, to demonstrate the practical application of technology in agricultural businesses.
This Monday, innovation funding was removed from the Scottish Government’s environment, agriculture and food strategic research programme. Can the minister explain why that happened, and can she reassure farmers and the agri-food industry that the Scottish Government is still committed to supporting innovation in new farming methods and technology?
The Scottish Government has launched the knowledge transfer and innovation fund, which is exactly for innovation. In April, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands opened the fund for applications and offered up to £1.6 million of support for projects looking to support the uptake of technology, among a broad range of topics.
The application window has now closed, and applications are being assessed for that award.
On the subject of support for farmers, it is the Scottish Government that remains committed to supporting active farming and food production, while other parts of the United Kingdom are offering farmers money to leave the industry. Does the minister share my view that the Scottish Government needs to take no lessons from the Tories on how to support Scotland’s agriculture sector?
I remind members that I am in the chair and will decide what is relevant and what is not, and that I do not appreciate a lot of sedentary comments, as I think people will now be aware.
The Government is determined to support a sustainable and vibrant rural economy. We will provide stability to farmers while supporting them and other land managers and rural stakeholders to deliver our climate change and biodiversity objectives. That is why we are collaborating with the industry through the agricultural reform implementation oversight board, which the Government set up, and are providing a budget of £680 million in 2022-23 for agricultural support and environmental payments, including direct payments and funding for the Scottish rural development programme and agricultural transformation.