CAP Delivery Debate Must Intensify

President tells AgriScot activity remains key priority

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller, told the annual AgriScot event at Ingliston, near Edinburgh that debate and discussion on delivery of the new CAP regime must intensify if we are to strike the right deal for Scotland’s rich agricultural mix.

The Scottish Government’s consultation on CAP delivery is expected in December with NFUS embarking on a 10-date tour of Scotland that month to discuss the planned shift to new arrangements with its membership.

The Union is committed to ensuring tight budgets are used to exclusively support active farmers when the basis for payment moves from a historic to an area-based scheme, starting in 2015.  That debate will focus on the scale of payments, the number of regions to be adopted and the potential use of coupling to protect vulnerable livestock sectors.

Speaking on the same platform as Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs Richard Lochhead, Mr Miller said:

“As we enter the next phase of delivering CAP reforms in Scotland, the principle that support only helps those actively contributing to our food and farming sector is worth restating. That can only happen if Scotland ensures entitlements and payments are properly allocated and we shut the door on any prospect of soft shoe farming.

“The shift to an area-based system could be brutal. But by targeting support only to those who are active and looking at coupled options for our most vulnerable sectors means getting the best value out of a blunt area payment system. Finding a system that works will not be easy but it is a challenge that we and the Scottish Government must embrace.

“A simple look at the three million hectares in Scotland that are classed as rough grazing provides a snapshot of the challenges we face in trying to secure a scheme that properly recognises and encourages activity in a region where massive variances in stocking rate exist.  

“But we must get it right because the rough grazing area is the base of Scottish livestock production but is inherently vulnerable to stock loss or abandonment and that brings ramifications for landscapes and communities.

“A recent survey of our hill farming members across Scotland showed a huge difference in historic support levels and stocking rates.  We identified hill farms operating stocking rates of less than half-a-ewe per hectare and some working at almost 10 times that rate.  For some, historic support levels are at £10 per hectare and for others it is as high as £140 per hectare.  Introducing a blunt regional model to deliver a single payment rate to all rough grazing hectares has massive implications for a huge tranche of Scotland.

“But the vulnerability of those farming our rough grazing area is there for all to see. The number of ewes being kept in Scotland has shrunk from 3.8 million in 1997 to 2.6 million now – much of that decline in our hill flocks.  In some areas the decline is extreme and it is estimated that in recent times more than 20,000 ewes have come off the hills around Lairg, Loch Shin and Altnaharra in the Highlands.

“Can coupling deliver for our vulnerable hill ewe sector in the future?  Scotland will have more flexibility in this area in the future and using part of our coupled pot for hill ewes may help address the huge damage that a low area payment for rough grazing areas could have on some productive hill units.  Let’s have that debate.

“We know from our recent survey that beef coupling could stop the erosion in our beef cow herd and deliver the throughput desperately sought by our abattoir sector.  

“While some other regions and Member States may shun coupling as an option, we cannot ignore what others are doing with coupling.  In Ireland, they are delivering coupled support to beef cows through both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 routes, as well as coupling support to ewes and small dairy producers.

“One of the impending choices that the Scottish Government must take is on the level of support it wishes to transfer from our direct support (Pillar 1) pot to our rural development programme (Pillar 2). Scottish Government must remember that targeting our Pillar 1 budget at active producers across all land types will deliver on our rural development goals, be they economic, environmental or social.  Shifting significant funds to Pillar 2 and holing our Pillar 1 budget below the waterline risks further undermining our vulnerable sectors.”

Notes to Editors

NFU Scotland is holding ten CAP consultation meetings in December, inviting members to learn more of the options and challenges, and to give views on the proposals. The dates, times and venues are. As follows:

Monday 2 December - 1.00pm - Western House Hotel, Ayr
Monday 2 December - 7.00pm - Urr Valley Hotel, Castle Douglas
Tuesday 3 December - 7.00pm - The Lodge, Carfraemill
Tuesday 10 December - 7.00pm - Huntingtower Hotel, Perth
Wednesday 11 December - 12.00 noon - Garfield Hotel, Stepps
Thursday 12 December - 1.00pm - Thistle Hotel, Inverness
Thursday 12 December - 7.00pm - Lochter Activity Centre, Oldmeldrum
Friday 13 December - 1.00pm - Tarbert Village Hall, Tarbert
Tuesday 17 December - 7.00pm - Lerwick Hotel, Lerwick
Wednesday 18 December - 12.00 noon - Ayre Hotel, Kirkwall


Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 145/13

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