Environmental policies that are proposed in the forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy could end up with almost one in ten farmers in the fragile hill areas of Scotland giving up agricultural production. That key consequence of the current Brussels proposals emerged yesterday from a survey conducted jointly by NFU Scotland and the Cairngorm National Park Authority.
The study, CAP Greening Impact Survey, looked at 35 farms in and around the national park. It examined, in detail, the likely effects of the proposals relating to cropping, grassland and ecological focus areas.
All the farmers questioned reported there would be a financial impact to their business, with 9 per cent saying they would be forced to go out of business altogether. Equally significantly, almost three-quarters of those surveyed anticipated that greening would have an adverse environmental impact and half felt it would have a negative effect on biodiversity.
One of the major changes that would come about with the current proposals would be stopping any arable production. Currently the vast majority of the survey’s participants carried out some level of arable cropping, but the potential impact of greening would see a quarter of the farmers surveyed stop cropping altogether.
The report will be used by NFUS and the CNPA in advancing their opposition to the present proposals which will be debated later this autumn in the European Parliament.
Union president Nigel Miller said the study had confirmed long-held concerns that the EU’s intentions were too prescriptive and would, in fact, be detrimental to Scotland’s farmed environment and farm businesses.
“This study, while over a relatively small geographical area, encompassed a representative sample of Scottish less favoured area farms,” he said. “It proves how the three-crop rule would limit farming options, lead to compliance problems and fail to deliver the environmental gain it is designed to provide.
“Given that the study has been completed in an area that is already rich in environmental attributes brought about by current farming practices, it highlights clearly the counterproductive nature of the greening proposals on many Scottish farms.
“Greening measures are unpopular across the whole of the EU and this study also provides a useful menu of alternative options that may be of interest to fellow member states.”
Miller emphasised that farmers in the Highlands were not against environmental measures as they had put forward an extensive list of measures around biodiversity, climate change, efficiency and animal health, which they felt they could undertake to deliver on agri-environmental targets.
“The extent of the menu suggested by the group indicates that a wide range of options is required so those applicants can react to an individual farm’s unique physical, environmental and economical characteristics,” he said.
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