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Union lays out Priorities for Rural Development

In a briefing to Scottish politicians, NFU Scotland has laid out its priorities for the new Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP), due to commence in 2014.

The current SRDP, a programme of economic, environmental and social measures, utilises some €680m of European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) funding plus Scottish Government match funding. It is a funding pot that delivers crucial schemes such as Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) and Rural Priorities.

The current programme, which started in 2007, is scheduled to run until 2013. Discussions are already underway on what shape the new SRDP should take.

Although the European budget has still to be set, and Scotland’s share of rural development funding (Pillar Two) still to be decided as part of CAP reform negotiations, the Union is keen that the thought process on devising an improved SRDP starts now.

NFU Scotland’s Director of Policy and Regions, Jonnie Hall said:
“Only with more accessible schemes, easier application and inspection processes, and better targeting of limited funding on real priorities will Scottish farming and crofting be able to continue to play its unique and pivotal role in rural development.  Much of what the SRDP delivers currently underpins a growing rural economy, flourishing environments and thriving rural communities and that is worth protecting.

“Given that Scotland’s existing rural development programme runs out in 2013, not only do we need to build a new SRDP but we need to ensure that we move smoothly from current schemes to the next.  It is highly likely that the next SRDP will not be fully approved and operational by 1 January 2014 when the current programme expires.  It is vital that ‘bridging’ is in place to allow critical schemes, such as LFASS and agri-environment agreements, to continue until new arrangements are in place. 

“We are on record as stating that LFASS – worth around £65 million annually to our livestock farmers - should be rolled over in its current form to provide an anchor of stability for a vast number of our farm businesses.  That would help cushion them through the inevitable period of upheaval that CAP reform will bring to their Single Farm Payments. 

“The architecture of the next SRDP is as important as the content, in order that access to measures and funding allows farming and crofting to fulfil their potential in delivering rural development objectives. To achieve that, the new SRDP should be broad and shallow, non-competitive and widely accessible, and include a wide range of measures that apply to the full range of Scottish farm types.

“LFA support must remain at the core of the next SRDP.  Designation of the LFAs or Areas of Natural Constraint is the first step.  A new support scheme must build on the principles of LFASS to allocate appropriate payments to land with varying degrees of disadvantage and farming options, subject to appropriate stocking requirements to ensure continued agricultural activity.  NFU Scotland is already examining options for this in detail.

“Competitive elements of the SRDP should continue to be delivered through a re-branded Rural Priorities scheme, but with two distinct layers.

“Firstly, measures must be modified to widen its reach and be more accessible to small-scale applicants with applications assessed through a fast-track, continuous process.  This would cover farm-based business investments, agri-environment measures, and so on. 

“Secondly, larger competitive capital investment options must remain available to instigate significant transformational change or restructuring of farm businesses.  Under capital investment for such changes, priority could be given to projects where collaborative benefits are a significant part of the outcome.

“If the SRDP were designed along these lines, the Union believes support could be focused to meet the needs of individual farm businesses and government policy goals.

“It is right that the debate on content and structure of the next SRDP should start now even though funding and budgets have yet to be agreed.  Currently, Scotland’s Pillar 2 spend works out at €6 per hectare, whereas the average across the EU is around €49 per hectare.

“Scotland needs a fairer share of the EU rural development budget, so that Scottish farming gets the support it requires.  Pillar 2 budget allocations must be based on proper objective criteria, not history, and that is a point we made very clearly to Europe’s Agricultural Commissioner, Dacian Ciolos, when we met with him in Edinburgh last week.”

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Date Published:

News Article No.: 100/12


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