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Pack Principles Right; Open Minds Needed on Delivery

NFU Scotland has backed the main principles behind the Final Report of Brian Pack’s Inquiry into Future Support for Agriculture in Scotland, published today (Wednesday, 3 November).  However, it has urged that minds remain open on delivery options.   The Union says that the main negotiating lines for the Scottish Government and industry are close to being established, but how they translate into future schemes on the ground is still unknown and all options need to remain on the table.

With reform of Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy scheduled for completion by 2013, Mr Pack has been carrying out an inquiry on behalf of the Scottish Government into how support to Scottish agriculture could be best delivered in the future.  His interim report, published in June, included a number of short-term recommendations while this final report looks at the long-term delivery of support to Scottish farmers and crofters.

The initial reaction from NFUS is that the report has underlined the importance of continued support to the sector, not least because of the benefits that flow from securing food production from the nation’s farms.  It recognises the unique nature of Scottish farming and that a ‘one size fits all’ move towards an area-based payment will not work.

However, whilst the specific model outlined in the report helps illustrate how support could be delivered, it still remains one option in the Union’s view.   NFUS is cautioning against complexity, as well as shifting the direction of the successful Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS).  In addition, NFUS is keen to avoid locking producers into certain production systems and believes that the balance between larger livestock headage support payments and market-orientation needs further work.

NFUS will now be studying the detail of the report and discussing it with its members, with an initial focus being its Council meeting in Perth next Monday (8 Nov).

Speaking at the Report’s launch in Perth, NFUS President Jim McLaren said:

“I commend Brian for his work in pulling together this report which moves the debate around future support arrangements for Scotland to another level.  Importantly, this has put us in the vanguard of the CAP reform debate going on across Europe.

“In our view, Brian has got the main principles about right.  He reiterates the critical role of direct support, which underpins food production whilst securing wider public benefits.  The recognition of the unique nature of Scotland’s industry and the need for flexibility in the CAP to reflect this is also a central point.

“However, in our view it is critical that we all keep an open mind on what kind of scheme we want to deliver on those principles.  The reality is we are two years away from a political deal on the CAP and the budget issue – both its size and distribution across Europe – remains up in the air.  There are three other UK regions, 26 other Member States and over 700 MEPs all to have their say as part of this process. 

“I would therefore urge farmers and government to avoid getting a fixed view in their minds on exactly the scheme we want just now.  The battle for principles has still to be won in Brussels.  Once that is achieved, the options for delivery will be clearer.

“Brian’s own model for delivery is interesting.  The use of labour units could be a critically important move and that is an option we should be pushing for in Brussels.

“There is one principle about which I have some concerns.   I wonder if, with larger headage payments and such a clearly defined LFA/non-LFA split, we are in danger of locking people into particular farming systems.   This, at a time, when market orientation and freedom to farm are still the watchwords and in a country marked by the benefits of mixed farming operations.   However, the modelling work when published may allay this fear.

“We would also worry that the shifting of LFASS looks like trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist with that scheme.  Indeed, it’s a scheme that has been further strengthened this year by joint NFUS and Government work.  Any move for LFASS into Pillar 1 would have to come with cast-iron guarantees on the budget and ongoing focus of the scheme.

“We also need to strike a balance between having a multi-layered scheme to address the different challenges but without getting overly complex.  Otherwise, we risk creating large bureaucracies, with poorer delivery, at a time when government resources are dwindling.

“The focus on larger headage payments for the beef sector and a new sheep payment do not come as a surprise.  Whilst the SFP is flawed in terms of securing activity, we need to also remember that market-orientation is critical for the livestock sector and has strengthened since decoupling.  Direct support should be about encouraging quality production, but without tying farmers into particular systems.  That’s a very difficult balance to strike I accept.  We would like to explore other options, such as a simplified grazing premium to reflect different stocking densities.

“However, detail will come later.  What we have now is a massively important contribution to the CAP debate, which has impact at an EU level.  The debate over delivery will continue over the next two years, but I believe Brian has now provided a set of headline principles we can all get behind, develop further and pursue in Brussels.” 

Notes to Editors

  • The Final Report of the Inquiry Into Future Support for Agriculture in Scotland, titled The Road Ahead for Scotland, can be viewed by following this link http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2010/11/03095445/0
  • NFU Scotland’s annual council meeting, being held on Monday, 8 November at Murrayshall near Perth, will provide farmers with the first opportunity to hear first hand from Brian Pack about his vision for future support arrangements for agriculture in Scotland. The meeting starts at 12.30pm.  
  • Because of the significance of the meeting, all NFU Scotland members, not just Council members, are invited to attend.   They can register for the event by contacting Diane Burnside on 0131 472 4023 or email: diane.burnside@nfus.org.uk
  • If members of the press would like to attend the NFU Scotland Council meeting on Monday, 8 November contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006 or Email: bob.carruth@nfus.org.uk

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 155/10


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