NFU Scotland has told the Scottish Executive that it must strike a balance between agricultural and forestry priorities. The Executive is currently reviewing the Scottish Forestry Strategy.
NFUS believes that financial incentives need to be pitched at a level which encourage those who wish to plant trees on agricultural land but does not drive up the price of land to the point where agricultural activity reduces. There is some concern that the existing forestry payment structure, which includes premiums for planting in certain parts of the country, could lead to this.
George Lawrie, Chairman of the NFUS Environment and Land Use Committee, said:
"We have an agriculture strategy which recognises the valuable role of agricultural activity and a forestry strategy designed to increased the size of Scotland's woodland. It is understandable therefore that there could be conflict between the two. However, there is no reason for there to be, providing there is some flexibility in deciding land use priorities in different areas of the country. In other words, as long as these strategies talk to each other and don't sit in isolation, there shouldn't be a problem.
"There has been some concern that the use of higher forestry support payments in areas such as Ayrshire and Arran has caused problems with availability and price of agricultural land. This could be addressed by establishing financial or hectarage limits on individual applications in these areas. That would still encourage increased planting, but would protect agricultural activity at the same time.
"The other critical element of the strategy is improving the management of existing land, to get the most out of woodland already planted. Setting targets to increase the area of woodland without establishing best management practices won't achieve everyone's aspirations for the strategy.
"Farming and forestry are both crucially important to rural economies. By being flexible in recognising that pressures on land differ across the country, both industries will benefit from the Executive's work."
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