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Scotland Seeks Strong Budget Commitment

NFU Scotland believes that an agreement on a CAP budget that suits Scotland is achievable and has called on the UK Government, as the lead Member State, to adopt a strong negotiating stance.

The Union has written to new Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson, outlining the importance of a robust budget deal to Scottish agriculture and highlighting that the flat line CAP budget, as proposed by the European Commission in June 2011, should be the minimum deemed acceptable.

For NFU Scotland members, many of whom are focused on livestock within the Less Favoured Areas, direct support delivered through Pillar One of the CAP is key to continued production, if not survival.

In a letter, the Union also points out that in the worst case scenario of a CAP support cut, there would be a significant threat to Scottish agriculture and all that it underpins.  With Scotland's payments less than half of the UK average, the Union believes some form of internal convergence in GB would be appropriate if farming in the hills, uplands and islands is to have a future.

With CAP Reform negotiations likely to gather pace once budgets are agreed, the Union has also provided the Secretary of State with its top 12 priorities that it would like secured on behalf of Scotland as part of CAP negotiations.

NFU Scotland President, Nigel Miller said:
“Given the importance of a healthy CAP budget to Scottish agriculture, we would want to be reassured that our new Secretary of State, as lead negotiator, is in there batting for a strong budget deal that is no worse than the flat line proposed in June.

“However, in the present economic circumstances, it would be prudent to put in place a contingency plan should that budget prove undeliverable.  If direct support to all farming businesses is cut, it would be vital that Westminster acts to protect Britain’s most vulnerable farmers, particularly those found within parts already designated as Less Favoured Areas (LFA).

“Clearly any reduced funding will have an impact throughout the UK.  However, with Northern Ireland operating in an all-Irish economic zone, any convergence strategy should focus on a Great Britain solution.

“In any CAP budget cut scenario, we would look to Government to cushion GB’s LFA regions from any damaging cuts in support, and in the new harsher economic environment, use the GB budget to smooth out competitive disadvantages.   We believe that the direct support delivered to the LFAs of GB should be maintained at their current level to ensure those fragile farming systems that deliver significant community, biodiversity and landscape benefits are sustained. 

“If under budget pressure, the non-LFA regions throughout GB could then move to a standard support level to avoid any competitive disadvantage should the average area payment be reduced.

“We have previously discussed our priorities should Pillar 1 CAP expenditure fall with both Caroline Spelman and Jim Paice and we look forward to meeting with new Defra incumbents Owen Paterson and David Heath in due course

“Their respective appointments as Secretary of State and Farming Minister come at a crucial moment for British agriculture.   With CAP reform likely to move quickly once EU budgets are agreed, we have provided both with a list of Scotland’s top twelve priorities for the negotiations.” 

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 121/12


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