CAP lobbying begins to protect Scottish interests

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THE first moves in the devolved decision making phase of the next common agricultural policy began yesterday with several of the main agricultural lobby organisations listing their priorities for securing the future of the livestock sector in Scotland.

In a joint statement sent to Scotland’s Cabinet secretary for rural affairs, Richard Lochhead, the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, the Scottish Federation of Meat Traders Association, the Scottish Beef Association and the National Farmers’ Union of Scotland, outlined their five top priorities to be included in the next CAP.

Central to their demands is a request that the Scottish Government makes full use of the 8 per cent of the total Scottish CAP budget for those livestock sectors of the farming industry that are likely to be vulnerable under the proposed area-based system.

“We recognise coupled support is an important targeting device and we commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop delivery through an enhanced beef scheme and perhaps through other vehicles recognising that hill and island ewes may suffer with the introduction of area support,” said a joint statement.

“Coupled support will be crucial not only for Scottish agriculture, but will be important in maintaining communities, downstream meat processing, the rural economy, local employment and exports.”

The lobbyists have also requested that new entrants and developing businesses that have been excluded from Scotland’s historic support system are now brought into the area payment scheme as a matter of urgency and definitely within year one of the reform being implemented in January 2014.

While it see urgency in including those categories of future recipients, the lobbying group has also tried to reduce the rate of change for those who will lose significantly in the changeover from the current historic support system.

“Both beef and dairy systems are likely to be exposed to significant change. To maintain a level of stability within the rural economy and to support continued output, a phased approach should be adopted.”

Unsurprisingly, the list of priorities includes the elimination of slipper farming, with a minimum level of activity being required before any payment is made from the public purse.

The group claims targeting support to those actually producing food must be a fundamental requirement of the reformed CAP, stating “inactivity in the present economic climate is an issue only in the grazing areas and, therefore, a minimum stocking rate should be applied as a gateway for support”.

But it concedes that a simple minimum stocking rate might be difficult to implement due to the diverse nature of hill production in Scotland.

Perhaps the most difficult issue for the Scottish Government to deliver is a request that the budget for direct farm support is conserved, while at the same time maintaining match funding levels within Scotland’s rural development programme.

“Continuing less favoured areas [LFA] support at the present level is paramount if sustainable production, communities and landscape are to be maintained. Channelling rural development funds through farm businesses is the most effective use of the budget to achieve priority SRDP outcomes, with particular emphasis on carbon efficiency, sustainable livestock production and a flourishing agri-environment.