NFU Scotland has called on Scottish Government to adopt a ‘can do’ attitude on implementing CAP Reform to ensure precious support funding is focussed on active farmers.
The Union has consistently argued that this CAP package must prioritise productive agriculture, livestock and activity. While that may add complexity, simple area based schemes that fail to make use of the flexibilities available will simply stack support payments on hectares, some of which may deliver very little to Scotland’s agricultural output.
The Union has demanded that delivery systems must be designed to ensure that those contributing to Scotland’s farming sector can benefit. With a limited budget, Scotland cannot afford to create a new generation of slipper farmers.
NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said: “Scotland is nearing the deadline for designing its CAP delivery schemes and the time has come for cool heads and tough decisions that will underpin the rural economy. Given all that is at stake, we need a ‘can do’ attitude from Scottish Government to get this sorted. The red line issues identified at an early stage in this process by NFU Scotland need to be grasped and addressed.
“Securing family farming businesses underpins Scotland’s ability not only to produce but manage our land resource. A clear focus on activity can give all sectors the capacity to respond to a world that increasingly needs food.
“Nailing the delivery of appropriate support to those farming in Scotland’s massive rough grazing area is vital.
“From within the proposed €70 million RGR budget, Scotland has the ability to target support so that it delivers close to €30 per ewe to all RGR units, including the more favoured hill farms where stocking rates are above one ewe per hectare.
“Debate amongst our Livestock and LFA committees has identified ewe hoggs as the route to deliver a coupled option on hill units. Using a model where support is limited to hoggs that represent a fixed proportion of a regular flock, we believe payment rates of between €60 and €80 per hogg are deliverable. Targeted support will also open up the potential for an enhanced beef scheme for vulnerable livestock areas in the Highlands and islands.
“That targeting process, the ‘Scottish clause’ on activity requirements and a robust negative list will free up budget within the RGR pot to deliver these higher rates and also block the route for a new generation of slipper farmers to emerge.
“Out with the RGR, we have consistently argued for grassland and arable payments to match the €240 per hectare available south of the Border on equivalent land. On greening, our arable producers are unfortunately going to have to live with the nonsensical three-crop rule requirements in 2015 but we continue to press the case for a European review on this measure. Where Scottish Government must assist our growers is in delivering a diverse menu of EFA options to capitalise on existing landscape features and avoids them being forced into a new form of set aside.
“A beef calf scheme for producers across Scotland, based on the maximum level of coupling available, has always been a red line issue for us. As has the need for a comprehensive national reserve to be in place for 2015 to support new entrants and developers disadvantaged by the historic era.
“Scottish Government must also put in place rural development measures that complement agricultural activity. By allocating resources to support precision farming, livestock development, farm-scale drainage and crofting/small farms in the Highlands and Islands, the Scottish Government can deliver a rural development plan that builds resilience into Scottish farming and reduces the exposure to market failure and climate change.
“As an example, the cattle development plan mapped out by the Union is designed to drive carbon efficiencies into the production chain and improve quality. It is also a driver for new technology and will establish a platform for genetic development. If funding for work and recording on farm was valued at €40 a cow, it would fill an immediate gap in direct support while creating transformational changes in production that deliver not just for the Scottish brand but also contribute to climate change targets.
“To move to a more constructive phase and help get a CAP deal sorted, we understand the Cabinet Secretary will be meeting with farmers within his constituency next week. We have also invited several politicians to visit a farm in South West Scotland next week to gauge the impact that CAP reform could have on those farming in that region.
“Decision time is looming and it is time for policymakers to put farming and food first.”