Olympic ideal could boost beef sector

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There is nothing particularly sporting about it but the Olympic podium model for providing future subsidies looks the best option for specialist Scottish beef producers, according to Scottish Rural College beef specialist Douglas Bell.

The move to area support payments after January 2015 under the next common agricultural policy is causing angst in every sector of Scottish farming but none more so than in the beef sector where the sweeping away of historic subsidy payments will see many cattle producers lose out financially.

In future, the support will be based on land use and type. Under what is described as an Olympic podium model of support, weightings can then be introduced to these land types which would favour livestock production.

“This could see less money going to arable land and more to grassland,” said Bell.

“I am sure the arable farmers will want a bigger share of the cash but as far as livestock farming is concerned, and especially beef production, this option looks better than the rest.

“It does depend on the level of additional money that would be given to the various categories but I believe it is as good as we will get for beef production.”

Just how the land will be classified has still to be decided but Bell said there seemed to be a bit of a head of steam behind using existing information on the integrated administrative control system forms that farmers have filled in for the past decade.

Bell was speaking at Thainstone at the first of a series of meetings organised by the Scottish Beef Association (SBA) which association chairman Scott Henderson said were designed to check out members’ views on future support.

So far, SBA policy has been based on extra support linked to cattle numbers, so called coupled support, but this has received little support from the UK government who are the primary negotiators in Brussels.

Henderson said they were not abandoning the coupled support policy but pointed out that, when the Scottish beef calf scheme – which is the only current example of coupled support – was introduced at the last CAP, a number of producers took exception to it.

“We have not shifted our position but we wanted to make sure we were on the right lines,” he said. “If we are pushing for enhanced coupled support we want to make sure that is what producers want.”

He disputed a suggestion that, with beef prices reaching new heights, the call for additional support had been weakened.

“Although beef prices have improved, margins have not. Store prices are in line with last year,” he concluded.