Brussels in ‘unworkable’ demands on crop farmers

The Scottish Government’s “equivalence measures” – which would have given cropping farmers an alternative greening option to the so-called three-crop rule – have hit the buffers in Brussels.

Richard Lochhead said revisions demanded by the EC were 'virtually unworkable'
Richard Lochhead said revisions demanded by the EC were 'virtually unworkable'

Scottish rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead, said yesterday that revisions demanded by the European Commission to the proposals, which he had lodged with the aim of getting a system more workable for Scottish growers, would render the new plans “virtually unworkable.”

Part of the greening requirements, it was proposed that growers would next year be offered two options – which included the use of winter stubbles, along with other measures, as an alternative to meeting the existing three-crop requirement which had been causing problems for Scotland’s barley growers.

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Lochhead said that he was seeking urgent talks with European Commission officials in a last-ditch attempt to get a workable alternative on the ground for this year.

“This meeting is our last chance to persuade the Commission to allow us to implement our proposals in 2016 – which will help ease the bureaucratic burden for farmers whilst achieving the environmental benefits we are seeking,” he said

Speaking after a meeting with the Scottish

Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment committee – at which support was narrowly given for proposals to set up two new Nitrate Vulnerable Zones – Lochhead also stressed the need for farmers to take up nutrient budgeting. He said this was why he was set to press ahead with new greening measures for permanent grassland.

“Greening must meet Scottish needs and I have been listening closely to feedback from the industry,” he said. “That is why we’ve made the very modest new requirement for a permanent grassland nutrient management plan as light touch as possible, after delaying it for a year to give farmers time to prepare.”

However, NFU Scotland fired an angry retort querying just how closely Lochhead had been listening to the industry’s view on greening.

Union president Allan Bowie dismissed the new requirements for grassland as “quite simply further gold-plating being introduced by the Scottish Government”.