Farming: CAP’s ‘Scottish clause’ deal now at risk

All sides agree active farming is the key to agricultural support. Picture: Neil Hanna

All sides agree active farming is the key to agricultural support. Picture: Neil Hanna

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Since negotiations on the next common agricultural policy (CAP) started three years ago, one key theme for Scotland has been that subsidies should only go to those actively farming, stopping support for so-called “slipper farmers” who do not produce anything for the cash.

Thanks to concerted action by the Scottish Government, MEPs and NFU Scotland, a so called “Scottish clause” was inserted in the political deal announced by the EU in June stating that support would only go to active farmers, with activity defined by keeping a minimum level of stocking.

Now, however, it appears that those responsible for drafting the details of the CAP – which comes into force in January 2015 – believe the “Scottish clause” is incompatible with World Trade Organisation requirements that subsidies should not be linked to production.

Although no-one in European Commission was prepared to be on the record this week, the message was clear that the activity link would not be acceptable.

Scott Walker, NFU Scotland’s chief executive, said: “Everyone agrees that CAP direct payments should only go to people who are actively farming.

“It is concerning that the European Commission appears to be ignoring the agreement reached on CAP reform.”

Walker added: “The commission must not be allowed to reinterpret what has been agreed. It is essential that support only goes to active farmers. The Scottish clause remains an important tool to ensure direct payments only go to active farmers.”

The Scottish Government also expressed concern, with a spokesman, saying: “[We are]seeking clarification of what will constitute an acceptable minimum activity requirement, as this detail has not yet been provided to us by Europe.”

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