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Headline CAP Deal Marks New Era for Scottish Farming

 

News that Europe has reached a headline agreement on reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will see the focus now shift to identifying how the proposals will be introduced at a Scottish level in 2015.

The CAP delivers between £550 and £650 million to the Scottish food and farming sectors annually, underpinning the production of safe, affordable food and securing significant economic and environmental benefits.

With the CAP having been in place in Europe for more than 50 years, this latest reform comes against a backdrop of significant economic pressure across Europe. Budgetary agreements are still to be ratified but are likely to mean that funds available to support Scottish farmers directly or to promote rural development measures through this package will be reduced.

Since the initial reform proposals were announced in autumn 2011, NFU Scotland has worked tirelessly at Scottish, UK and European levels to ensure priorities for Scotland were recognised within the final agreement.

Many of Scotland’s initial concerns have been addressed. On first take, progress has been made on NFU Scotland’s red line issues on minimising redistribution, supporting active farmers, coupling support payments to livestock, bringing in new entrants and recognising the environmental importance of our permanent pasture.

In our arable sector, damaging greening proposals have been watered down but requirements on crop diversification and obligations on ecological focus areas may yet undermine our cropping sector.

NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller, who was in Luxembourg for the Council of Ministers meeting on Monday and travelled to Brussels today (Wednesday 26 June), said:

"After two years of talking, we now have a degree of certainty and, in many respects, the real work starts now. We need to quickly digest the whole package, study the final Commission text when it arrives later this year and identify the measures that will best deliver for Scottish farming and our associated industries between 2015 and 2020.

"In the past few days, a lot more flexibility has been built into the proposals. The ‘Irish tunnel’ model of partially converging payments in a region to address redistribution concerns is now an option and may be of value to existing scheme recipients in Scotland.

"Similarly, the scope for new entrants and those disadvantaged by our current system to be fully integrated into any new scheme from day one and receive top-up support will be of advantage to Scotland. It opens up the potential for a two-speed approach – new businesses moving to a new payment arrangement from day one with existing businesses entering a transition phase.

"Modelling work looking at the many permutations for delivering support to Scottish agriculture is already underway and is at the core of identifying the right scheme for Scotland.

"The option to couple some of our support payments to livestock, as we currently do via our Scottish Beef Calf Scheme, remains in place and may be an essential tool to stabilising and rebuilding our declining stock numbers.

"There's further good news in that Scotland's permanent grassland area can be monitored at a national or regional level. Providing our area doesn’t fall by more than 5 percent, we'll avoid a farm level approach that could have been extremely damaging to productive livestock units. The definition of permanent grassland to allow grazed heather to be eligible is also something we needed.

"On greening, requirements on arable farmers to have ecological focus areas have been watered down from seven to five percent and new exemptions for arable farms with 75 percent of land in grass secured. However, for Scottish growers – many of whom are restricted by geography and climate in the crops that they can grow – the remaining requirements on crop diversification and ecological focus areas on farm will still place unnecessary restrictions on what they can grow and their eligibility for support.

"While budgets for CAP support are still to be ratified but likely to fall, it was an important point of principle that the imposition of financial discipline was shared by all who benefit from support. There was initial agreement that those is receipt of less than €5000 of support would be exempt from cuts but that has been scaled back to a more acceptable €2000 limit.

"Looking ahead, as an organisation, we have already put teams in place that will look at the big issues for Scotland - regionalisation, coupling of payments, new entrants, transition arrangements and convergence. We also have staff resource that will look at rural development and cross-compliance issues, such as land eligibility.

"We want to identify the right combination of measures permitted under the new CAP that will ensure a fair distribution of funding but, crucially, maintains our ability and capacity to produce food. We also want to ensure new entrants are put on an equal footing to established businesses at the earliest opportunity and we want a simple scheme to be available for our small farmers and crofters.

"By being both diligent and thorough, we will ensure Scottish farming secures the best deal possible from this latest CAP package." Ends

 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 88/13


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