NFU Scotland yesterday accused the Scottish Government of paying only lip service to common agricultural policy (CAP) simplification – while creating more confusion by imposing additional environmental regulations and failing to update greening guidelines for producers.
Dismissing new plans which would require livestock farmers to provide nutrient grazing plans for their permanent grassland as further gold plating yesterday, the union also claimed that full guidance was not yet available for schemes which had been running since the beginning of the year.
“While nutrient budgeting may make good sense and promote efficiency at farm level, by making it statutory, the cabinet secretary [Richard Lochhead] would be wielding a big stick rather than using alternative voluntary approaches, such as the rural development programme, to promote the benefits that nutrient budgets can deliver,” said union president Allan Bowie.
He said that compliance with greening measures, which account for approximately 30 per cent of available support under new CAP schemes, had been extremely challenging for Scottish farmers because of Scottish Government’s insistence in gold-plating certain European requirements.
Bowie said that while some elements of the rules had been changed before Christmas, the online guidance notes had not yet reflected these changes, leaving producers unsure of what was required under either the existing or the additional rules.
“The Scottish Government has banged on about how green Scottish agriculture is already – yet here they are imposing additional requirements on our farmers,” he added.
He said that the whole issue of over-the-top greening rules and their detrimental impact on Scottish growers would be discussed at tomorrow’s meeting of the union’s combinable crops committee. He stressed that farmers would be looking for some signs of movement on these and other issues raised at Agriscot in November when Lochhead addressed the union’s annual general meeting next week.
The call for the update and for movement on simplification was supported by Scottish Liberal Democrat spokesman Tavish Scott, who said that the Scottish Government had asked industry stalwart Brian Pack to produce a report on reducing red tape.
Scott said: “Farmers can only now conclude that Brian’s report has been consigned to the top shelf of St Andrew’s House where the dust gathers by the day. What a waste.”