NFU Scotland has met Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson, urging the Minister to keep playing his part in identifying all options available to Scotland with regards to introducing new CAP rules in 2015.
The meeting in Edinburgh followed the Secretary of State’s evidence session in the Scottish Parliament with the Scottish Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.
The meeting with NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller, CEO Scott Walker and Parliamentary Officer Clare Slipper was part of a continuing series of meetings with the Secretary of State and his officials, allowing NFUS to outline and explain the CAP priorities for Scotland. It is hoped a further meeting will be arranged for May.
One of the biggest challenges Scotland faces with regards to future CAP implementation is delivering a flat rate payment across its huge rough grazing region (RGR) – around 2.8 million hectares of RGR are currently included in Scottish claims.
NFU Scotland had supported linking or ‘coupling’ part of the proposed pot of funding for the RGR to livestock to ensure active production is better recognised.
In a turbulent few weeks, that option was initially accepted at a European level, then rejected at the start of April. As a result of meetings between NFUS and European Commission officials, there is now fresh impetus behind work to identify solutions to CAP delivery in the RGR that can avoid damaging redistribution of funds.
The Union is also looking to work with the Secretary of State in tackling the impact that the three-crop rule requirement in the CAP package could wreak on Scotland’s valuable arable sector.
Speaking from the Scottish Parliament, Nigel Miller said: “There has been a frustrating sequence of events where decisions on potential delivery of CAP taken one day are thrown into doubt the next. Our recent meetings with European Commission officials, backed by the briefing material we have since provided, have brought recognition that delivery of support within our RGR presents a massive challenge and that focussing limited funds on active producers is desirable.
“While work on potential solutions is ongoing at a European level, it is clear that the process requires the continued support and engagement of UK and Scottish governments.
“We welcomed the opportunity to meet with Owen Paterson today to discuss how the UK can work with the Scottish Government on our RGR issue in a bid to target support to those actively farming in our fragile areas.
“Time for decisions on CAP delivery in Scotland is pressing but avoiding extreme redistribution of funds within the RGR remains an absolute priority for the NFUS and Scottish industry.
“Many of problems on CAP delivery in Scotland are compounded by our limited budget. The commitment to review CAP budget distribution within the UK opens up the opportunity to address Europe’s vision for budget convergence. We impressed on the Minister the need for a clearly defined timetable to be put in place to allow this review process to move forward.
“It was gratifying to hear first-hand the Secretary of State’s commitment to driving change into Europe’s greening proposals for CAP, particularly the damaging three-crop rule. We identified that our arable producers – like those across rest of UK – face a significant cost in delivering the rigid greening cropping requirement without any tangible environmental benefits.
“We have agreed to work together with the Secretary of State to create a robust, evidence base on the impact of three-crop rule with a view to demanding that the commission urgently reviews the current rules.”