DCSIMG

UK minister hints at softening of line on production support

In ORDER to protect the economically important Scottish livestock sector, farming leaders have been calling for future support to be coupled to actual production in the economically fragile areas of the country. Yesterday UK Department of the Environment, Food and Farming Affairs minister, David Heath, provided a chink of light, saying that he recognised the importance of this matter to Scotland.

IN ORDER to protect the economically important Scottish livestock sector, farming leaders have been calling for future support to be coupled to actual production in the economically fragile areas of the country. Yesterday UK Department of the Environment, Food and Farming Affairs minister, David Heath, provided a chink of light, saying that he recognised the importance of this matter to Scotland.

Currently the EU put a top limit on this linked support and Scotland uses this to support beef production through the Beef Calf Scheme. England does not use its coupled entitlement and it would be possible to move their percentage north of the Border.

“We understand how important it is to maintain farm incomes north of the Border and where there is less flexibility in production than in other parts of the country,” Heath said.

His statement was welcomed by, among others, Brian Pack, who has had a hugely influential role in determining Scottish Government thinking on the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and who has been a strong proponent of coupled support.

“That is really good news” he said, adding that the importance to Scotland – where 85 per cent of land is classified as less favoured – of such support was far more than in England where the percentage was only 15 per cent.

However Heath, who was speaking at the annual meeting of NFU Scotland in St Andrews, did qualify his comments, saying that there was still some considerable way to go in negotiating issues within the various parts of the United Kingdom on the next Common Agricultural Policy.

Heath deferred any discussion on whether it would be possible for Scotland to renegotiate its level of funding when it moves to an area-based system of support as opposed to its current historic payment basis.

Meanwhile, Michael Moore, the Scottish Secretary of State, threw down the gauntlet on the independence debate, saying it was time for those advocating independence to define just what it would mean to Scottish agriculture.

When asked what would happen to the single farm payment, which delivers £450 million into Scottish agriculture, Moore admitted he just did not know.

The answer might come today when Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Government rural affairs secretary, addresses the meeting.

 
 
 

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