SCOTTISH FARMERS are not alone in viewing the implementation of the new common agricultural policy (CAP) with trepidation and worry, it was claimed yesterday.
Speaking during a trip to Brussels to voice concerns to the European Commission and to share experiences with other farming groups, NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker said: “At yesterday’s meeting with farm commissioner Paul Hogan, it was apparent from the contributions made by farming unions from all member states that implementation of the new CAP is proving far more challenging than was expected.”
He said that despite pleas from a group of MEPs to have the “greening” element postponed, Hogan had made it clear that it would be implemented, as planned, in 2015.
“Given implementation issues across Europe and the complexities associated with the new schemes, many farming representatives, including NFU Scotland, called for the commissioner to allow for greater flexibility within the inspection process and a proportionate response when unintentional errors are found on farm,” said Walker.
He said that the union also voiced its concerns over the Scottish Government’s proposed transition measures, stating that they fell far short of the original promises made to both established producers and developing businesses.
“This trip offered an opportunity to meet fellow farmers from other nations as well as commission officials to discuss a host of issues around CAP,” he said. “Others have taken a different path on implementation and we will engage in further discussions with Scottish Government officials shortly to see if its plans can be improved to better serve our farmers.
• In a bid to clarify how some of the changes to the CAP will be handled, a demonstration of the new computer system which is set to replace Rural Payments Online was launched on-line by the Scottish Government yesterday.
The system, which will deliver an estimated £4 billion of support to Scotland’s farming, food and rural sectors over the next five years, is not yet open for business but the demonstration highlights some of the improvements offered by the new Rural Payments and Services.
Cabinet secretary for rural affairs Richard Lochhead said: “We need a new online system for the new CAP to be implemented next year, as it is radically different to the existing policy.
“Rural Payments and Services has been specifically designed to make submitting an application or claim much clearer, simpler and smarter and I am pleased it remains on track to launch soon.
“By having application and claim forms, guidance and up-to-date map and boundary information all in one place, the streamlined and secure Rural Payments and Services should save our hard-working farmers and crofters time, hassle and paperwork.”
Chief agricultural officer Drew Sloan said that many of the 420 extra staff taken on to help implement the new CAP had been working on the system “24/7” in recent weeks – and indicated that the upgrade and other costs associated with implementing the new regulations was likely to be in the region of £137.8 million.