Fergus Ewing defies Brexit talk to press for CAP reform

'Powers over agriculture policy and funding should be returned to Scotland,' said Fergus Ewing. Picture: John Devlin
'Powers over agriculture policy and funding should be returned to Scotland,' said Fergus Ewing. Picture: John Devlin
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While almost all the political attention in the UK has been on what is as yet an unknown post-Brexit policy for farming, plans are being made in Europe for the next version of the common agricultural policy (CAP).

EU agricultural commissioner Phil Hogan has already responded positively to suggestions that the next CAP should be simpler and less bureaucratic than the current one.

Powers over agriculture policy and funding should be returned to Scotland

Fergus Ewing

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And in a response to the European Commission’s consultation on regulations to govern post-2020 CAP, rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing said that further simplification and reducing the administrative burden on farmers should be at the heart of CAP reform.

Although the response may appear to be anomalous with all the focus on what kind of deal the UK might be able to negotiate on departing from Europe, Ewing stressed the importance of Scotland’s input.

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“We are clear that powers over agriculture policy and funding should be returned to Scotland and we are committed to continued constructive engagement during the negotiations to help shape the future of CAP to ensure the future policy successfully delivers on its objectives to benefit the EU and Scotland,” Ewing said.

• READ MORE: Fergus Ewing attacks post-Brexit agricultural policy

His thinking includes a call for more freedom to tailor rules to local circumstances and for there to be more proportionate penalty provisions.

A further plea is put in by the minister for a future CAP to treat new entrants fairly thus reversing the historical disadvantage suffered in the past.

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And – possibly after suffering nightmares brought about by a complex computer system struggling to cope with the present requirements – he calls for a more realistic and proportionate approach to the degree of mapping accuracy required, taking into account local circumstances and the genuine risk to public money.

“Current CAP rules are too prescriptive and do not allow enough tailoring for local circumstances,” Ewing said.

“Our proposals seek to correct this by enabling CAP to match local needs, removing the risk of farmers suffering heavy penalties for minor non-compliance, while also reducing current excessive administrative burdens and ensuring external convergence monies are passed to the right area.”

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