The Scottish Government came under heavy criticism yesterday over the lack of detailed information available for farmers and their professional advisers making decisions on the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which commences in 2015.
Jeremy Moody, adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, was speaking in Dunblane when he said the Scottish farming industry had not yet received any detailed information worthy of the name and, as a result, Scotland was “seriously behind the game” and “urgency was paramount”.
He compared the Scottish situation with that in Wales and Northern Ireland, where much more progress has been made in preparing for the next CAP.
Having experienced the problems England faced when it made the move to an area-based system of support at the last reform of the CAP, Moody also predicted there would be a major problem in Scotland with all landowners trying to access the subsidy scheme.
“When you have such a system, it is inevitable that people will try to get into it. The system will produce it. The administration will have shedloads of applications for inclusion.”
He pointed out that even after the Scottish Government announce how it wants its version of the next CAP to be, another tranche of issues arises, particularly at farm level.
As far as Scottish arable farmers are concerned, decisions and crop planting will take place within a few months and planting decisions will have to conform to details not yet published.
In his criticism of EU jargon, he pointed out that the definition of an active farmer – which has been a goal of the politicians in ensuring so-called slipper farmers do not receive subsidies – was so woolly that even an extremely active farmer might not qualify. “If ever there was an offence under the Trades Description Act, this is it,” he told the delegates, many of whom will be charged with translating the “pile of complexity” – Moody’s description - that is the next CAP into practical usage.
In his criticism of the many of the decisions and definitions made by the European Union in laying out the main framework of the CAP, Moody gave as an example how an extremely active farmer could fall foul of the regulations and not receive support. He said that ideally Scotland should have a trial run this year, testing definitions prior to moving into the CAP officially.
Government to revise NVZ designation
A CONSULTATION which could see the area of farmland in Scotland carrying the nitrate vulnerable zone (NVZ) status being reduced by one quarter was launched yesterday by the Scottish Government.
Water quality in the original designated areas, which are mainly in arable lands, have been monitored over the past decade and, from the data, the proposal is to remove the designation from 35 groundwater areas.
However, the consultation also proposes that two new areas – at Finavon, Angus, and the Piltanton Burn near Stranraer, Wigtownshire, be added to the list from August 2015.
NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie said he was pleased that, after years of lobbying for a more proportionate approach to designation, the Scottish Government was proposing changes: “That will be appreciated by many producers.”