While many farms might only just be starting to recover from the legacy left by the extreme weather events of 2012 and 2013, the coming year will be a crucial period in shaping the long-term future of the farming industry.
NFU Scotland’s president, Nigel Miller, said that, across a broad range of issues, the decisions to be taken in 2014 would set both the policy framework and the political scene for the rest of the decade.
Writing in the union’s annual report, Miller said: “The next 12 months are a pivotal point in defining Scotland’s future farmed landscape and productive potential. For Scotland, there is a considerable amount of work to be done in 2014.
“The architecture of Scotland’s new CAP must be defined; the regionalisation of Scotland and the transition arrangements that will move Scotland away from historic support are two of the basic building blocks to deliver future support.”
He said that the option to use limited coupled payments would play an important role and could help fine-tune the broader brush strokes of the regional payment approach.
“There is a determination both in government and the farming community that the new CAP will bring new and developing businesses into full support from day one. The national reserve will also have a key role to ensure businesses do not fall between the cracks of legislation,” he said.
And he said that as far as Pillar 2 support was concerned, backing for the Less Favoured Areas support remained the core priority for discussions.
But he added that stripping out some of the complex application procedures in other areas of rural support was important: “Limiting the size of projects can also open up support to more farm businesses despite the limited budget.”
Miller said that the union would also look at alterations to the LFA scheme rules to allow the entry of claimants who had been unfairly excluded in the past.
The Agricultural Holdings review, to be chaired by rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead, was set to be another major issue for the year ahead and he said that all members who were tenants would be surveyed to help inform the union’s approach. He indicated that changes to the legislation were almost inevitable, and getting them right would be critical for the future of the tenanted sector.
Miller also expressed hopes that the review of Nitrate Vulnerable Zones could see some land removed from the restrictions, and that last year’s appointment of the Grocery Code adjudicator would see a fairer trading environment when dealing with big buyers. Continuing to build on the export ambitions for Scotland’s food and drink would be another area attracting attention.
He also admitted that there was no getting away from the importance of the independence debate, but stressed that the union was determined to remain neutral while offering members the every opportunity to put the important questions to all parties involved.