Farming leaders put pressure on politicians over issues

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Europe’s farming leaders yesterday put pressure on their politicians to sort out the outstanding issues in the next common agricultural policy (CAP) as quickly as possible.

Pekka Pesonan, secretary general of the farm union and farm co-operative lobbying movement, Copa-Cogeca, said a final agreement was vital to enable farmers and cooperatives to get on with their production and investment plans.

He was speaking as agricultural ministers met to discuss the latest state of play before final “trialogue” talks between negotiators from the EU Commission, EU Council and Parliament on the CAP package take place today.

Also stressing the need for urgency in the decision making process, Nigel Miller, president of NFU Scotland, said: “The budget issues, which are still to be resolved, will determine the shape of farming in Scotland. Budget cuts and financial discipline make this a crucial area.”

The big concern for the Union is the potential to shunt more of the budget away from direct farm business support in “Pillar One” of the CAP to wider rural development in “Pillar Two”. That, said Miller, cast a real shadow over the industry.

“Scottish farmers already receive a support payment, in euros per hectare, which is one of the lowest payment rates in Europe,” he said. “Any further erosion of direct support risks Scottish agriculture operating in an economic twilight zone and disadvantaged within Europe and the UK.”

Miller also expressed his concern that the new policy of top limiting – having “degressive individual support payments” – could adversely affect Scotland

“With Scottish farms on average more than three times the size of the average farm unit in Europe, Scotland is very much in the firing line were degressivity to be introduced,” he said.

“Interim results from NFU Scotland’s survey of beef producers show that even moderate cuts in support through degressivity are likely to trigger significant cuts in the breeding herd and beef production.”

Miller also praised the attitude of Scottish Government cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead in pushing for certainty in the next CAP.

Prior to his departure for Brussels, Lochhead had stated Europe needed to “get a move on and agree the details of the CAP”.

He continued “The Scottish Government’s aim throughout these CAP negotiations has been to achieve a fairer, more flexible deal to meet Scotland’s needs. Good progress was made in the agreements reached in June, particularly around the inclusion of the ‘Scottish clause’ which will reward active farming and put an end to slipper farming.”

During a break in the negotiations, Lithuania’s farm minister, Vigilijus Jukna, who chaired the session, stressed his determination to see a conclusion to the discussions.