Scottish farmers will have another month or so before they see the government consultation paper on how the next common agricultural policy (CAP) will impact on them.
But in the new devolved European CAP, their counterparts south of the Border have already seen the government proposals for England and they do not like the plans to move 15 per cent of the subsidies from payments going directly to farmers into a wider rural development programme.
English NFU president Peter Kendall said the key concern for his members was transferring the maximum amount of money from direct support for farmers to rural development funds.
“I have repeatedly stated that English farmers are already significantly disadvantaged in comparison with their near neighbours in the EU,” he said.
“I will hold the government to its word that they will only modulate the maximum 15 per cent if it can demonstrate it would deliver worthwhile and valuable outcomes for farming and society.”
Kendall added that if the UK government was determined to make the move, then it would be far more appropriate to implement a two-stage approach.
The English union points out that existing agri-environmental schemes are coming to an end and the next scheme will not come into operation until January 2016, with payments not being made until autumn of 2016 at the earliest.
“Government will be simply creating a war chest of modulated funds, which could disappear out of the farming industry if it modulates at 15 per cent from next year,” he said.
Kendall also confirmed that the English union, like its counterpart in Ireland, is disappointed that the authorities have not yet signaled any flexibility for farmers who are caught up by the requirement to grow a minimum of three different crops on arable land.
He said the NFU was not going to give up on that issue: “I have requested an urgent meeting with the European Commission to discuss what alternatives there could be and hope we can find solutions before the end of this consultation.”
Meanwhile, announcing the Scottish Government timetable for consultation on the version of the CAP to operate in this country, a spokeswoman said there would be a further discussion on the rural development plan which will be launched this month with a consultation on how direct payments are planned to operate being published next week. In both cases, there will be a three-month period for responses.
She defended the timetable saying: “Scotland’s diverse landscape – good land mixed in with poorer land – and much lower level of funding mean that decisions on CAP implementation are far more difficult here and consequences of getting it wrong are more profound.”