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Hill Farming’s Invaluable Contribution Recognised

NFUS tells Oban conference support arrangements crucial to sector’s future

NFU Scotland will use a national conference on Scottish hill farming to recognise the invaluable contribution made by the sector but state that future support arrangements are crucial to its future success.

The hill farming conference, taking place today (30 September) and tomorrow (1 October) is bringing together hill farmers and crofters from across Scotland, along with policy makers and stakeholders. Today’s programme includes farm visits in Argyll while tomorrow’s conference session will be in Oban. The aim of the event is to highlight some of the challenges faced; identify a sustainable way forward for hill farming, whilst recognising the benefits active hill farming can deliver. The Union believes tools to support hill farming are available, but they have to be used wisely.  

Ahead of his conference speaking slot, NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy, Jonnie Hall said: “If individual hill farm businesses take their opportunities, and Scottish Government commits to supporting the true worth of active hill farming, then there will be a very bright future.

“You can’t put a value on the hugely important contribution that hill faming in Scotland makes to food production, communities, local economies, tourism, biodiversity and landscapes, yet it remains a vulnerable sector still reliant on support.

“Hill farmers, often working in remote areas, face an array of rising costs that are never likely to be met by returns from the market place. While that merits support in itself, it is important that we remember that many of the genuine benefits from active hill farming don’t have a market value!   

“Support, in a variety of guises, remains vital.  But as support systems change, that presents renewed challenges for the future viability of hill farming.

“Changes to direct support arrangements for 2015 onwards are revolution, not evolution.  The shift to area based payments made it essential that we looked carefully at what we’ve got and make that work by targeting activity where we can to avoid overcompensation and land abandonment.

“Estimated payment rates of €10 per hectare for Region 3 land and €35 per ha for Region 2 are low but the voluntary coupled support schemes for ewe hoggs and beef calves have the potential to deliver fairer returns back to those who are most active in the hills and uplands. Eligibility for these coupled support schemes is simple but we must recognise that application, retention and inspection requirements are not.  

“Pillar 2 support for our hill farmers, through the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme has also been a crucial lifeline, delivering around £65 million annually to our LFA.  That, too, will change but the hope is that this shift to the new Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme will be evolution and not revolution.

“LFASS is to continue in its current form until 2017, with some minor changes, but from that point Scotland will have to replace it with ANC where compensation will be based on income foregone and the extra costs of farming more disadvantaged land.

“There will be no historic, remote, coupled, or enterprise elements to the new ANC making it dramatically different.  While devising a scheme will be challenging, it is such a fundamental part of the total support package for hill farming that we must make it work.”

Notes to editors

  • A one and a half-day conference looking at the opportunities for hill farming in Scotland will be held on 30 September and 1 October in Oban, Argyll. This event will bring together hill farmers and crofters from across Scotland, along with policy makers and stakeholders.   More at: http://www.nfus.org.uk/node/16768
  • It has been organised by NFU Scotland, Argyll and Bute Agricultural Forum, Cairngorms National Park, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, SRUC and Argyll and Bute Council.
  • Today (30 September) - the event opens with visits to the SRUC Hill & Mountain Research Centre, Kirkton and Auchtertyre Farms, Nr. Crianlarich to view new sheep handling facilities and the use of electronic identification on sheep with presentations on sheep health, performance recording and cattle management.  The second farm visit will be to Brackley Farm, Dalmally to view woodland regeneration and planting schemes.
  • The conference will be staged on Day Two (1 October) at the Scottish Association for Marine Science Centre at Dunstaffnage near Oban, chaired by Ken Rundle of SRUC.
  • It will include the following presentations followed by a workshop session.
    • The Future of Scottish Agriculture and the Role of Hill Faming to Deliver?: Trudi Sharp, Deputy Director for Agriculture, Rural Development and Land Reform, Scottish Government
    • The Reformed CAP and What it Means for Hill Farming: Jonnie Hall, Director of Policy, NFU Scotland
    • Threats to Hill Farming – What are the key issues to be addressed? Facilitated feedback session with Fergus Younger, Development Manager, Argyll & the Isles Agricultural Forum
    • International Speaker: Hill Farming Outside Scotland: Chloe Palmer, Director Chloe Palmer (Farm & Environment) Consultancy Ltd
    • Doing Something Different: David Cooper, Farmer, Tardoes Farm, Muirkirk
  • Any members of the media looking to attend all or any part of the conference are asked to contact NFUS Regional Manager Lucy Sumsion in advance to allow catering arrangements to be made.  Lucy can be contacted on 01499 600154, 07787 434104 or Email: lucy.sumsion@nfus.org.uk

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 187/15


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