A deer price to pay for venison

Two weeks after its publication, the general feeling is that the aims of the Pack report reflect, as far as allowable, the priorities of Scottish agriculture.

The proposals include the setting up of a national reserve so that new entrants to the farming industry may gain parity with those already receiving a single farm payment.

However, this week, Scottish deer farmers have claimed they have been excluded from the support system, with Jamie Fletcher, of Easter Lennieston, Thornhill, Stirling, describing the Pack proposals as "putting deer farmers to the back of the queue where no support will be given".

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In a letter to cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead, he points out that newcomers to farming deer would be able to get cash from the New Entrants Scheme. At the same time, deer farmers in England are already getting support through their area based subsidy scheme.

These imbalances are making life more difficult for those who have been farming deer for years, he claimed.

Fletcher, who attended the meeting at which the Pack recommendations were issued, said he agreed with the broad aims that agriculture must be sustainable, must be equitable and must be competitive.

But he pointed out that deer farmers currently have to compete with farmers who have been given their single farm payments from other farming activities and thus have a huge competitive advantage over existing venison producers.

"We sell most of our product in England where all deer farmers receive single farm payments," he said. "We are the only grass fed red meat sector to have been excluded from single farm payment allocation."

Fletcher claimed the present situation was neither equitable nor sustainable, producing as it does "unfair competition and market distortion".

Fletcher believed the real reason that the department of rural affairs has, so far, been reluctant to bring deer farmers into the SFP scheme is because they believe that all the other excluded sectors, such as pigs and poultry would demand equal treatment.

His letter to the minister also highlights what he describes as a "glaring inconsistency in current official thinking".

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"The government has apparently been encouraging increased venison production to meet the identified demand for Scottish Venison," he said.

"How ironic that you continue to discourage the deer farmers who are in the best position to help meet this demand by your continuing negative attitude to our sector as shown by your reluctance to grant us parity with other livestock sectors."