THE 2014 harvest may be stop/start, with showers or longer periods of rain breaking up any combining periods but progress is being made with an estimated 40 per cent of grain in Scotland already having been taken.
Unfortunately, as far as NFU Scotland is concerned, progress has not been made in providing growers with the detailed requirements for the “greening” policies of the forthcoming common agricultural policy (CAP).
The net result is that growers are now having to make assumptions that may or may not be correct.
The union compared the detailed up-to-date guidance being issued to growers in England with information from the Scottish Government – which is, in the eyes of the union, “in desperate need of being updated” – about to go out to farmers. Union president Nigel Miller said: “For months, we have been seeking answers to a significant number of questions on the greening aspects of the new CAP.
“These are not questions about the generality of the rules which are covered in the documents being sent out now but specific questions that growers need answers to so they can plan and execute their cropping programmes.”
He gave as an example, the commitment to providing viable ecological focus area (EFA) options for all and, at this late stage, these had not been delivered.
Other issues with no resolution but which are believed to be central to an internal tussle in government on the strength of greening policies include the management rules for nitrogen fixing crops, the lists of crops acceptable for crop diversification and the rules for catch or cover crops claimed as EFAs.
“Farmers in England have had a lot of information available since June and a further 40 pages of guidance was published earlier this month. In contrast, the Scottish Government’s brief greening document on its website fails to provide the detail that is needed by growers,” said Miller.
“Despite our requests for guidance, growers have not been able to wait any longer. Winter oilseed rape has to be planted in August and that is well under way; drilling of winter barley will begin in September and seed orders for other crops are being placed. There is no more time for decisions to be considered, they have to be taken now!”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Although we have announced the main parts of the future Scottish greening package, some of the finer details still need further work. This is a similar position to other parts of the UK which have announced preliminary but not final decisions.
“Also, Scotland’s CAP budget is relatively small and so we need to wring maximum environmental benefit from our greening payments.”