CAP reform concerns prompt farm ministers’ meeting

UK FARMING minister Caroline Spelman yesterday broke her holiday to meet Scottish Government rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead to discuss the forthcoming reform of the EU Common Agricultural Policy.

Speaking after the meeting in Edinburgh, which was the first in Scotland between a Scottish Government minister and his counterpart in London since 2007, Lochhead said he had stressed how important it was for Scotland to get a fairer allocation from the CAP budget.

He claimed this added financial support to Scotland would ensure farm activity remained high and essential food security would be provided.

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“The CAP reforms are vital to farming in Scotland and we must get it right in our negotiations with the EU – Scotland’s farmers depend on us to do so,” he said.

“CAP payments play a vital role in ensuring the continuity of food supply, environmental benefits and the delivery of wider public benefits.

“These important outcomes would be at risk without this financial support. There must be a stronger link between support and farming activity in future, or these benefits could be lost.”

Lochhead added that, apart from the fairer funding formula for the CAP which he believed to be the big priority in the negotiation, the ministers had also discussed a number of specific issues.

“I would also like to see particular importance placed on new entrants being well catered for by the reformed system from day one – this is crucial to the future of farming in Scotland as we seek to attract new blood into the sector.”

Bureaucracy also came under discussion, with a desire to see red tape reduced, and a more proportionate penalty system for any infringement of CAP regulations.

“Additionally, it is important that we get the technical details of the reforms right,” he said. “Scotland has unique requirements and this must be taken into account when things such as the definition of less favoured areas are being worked out.”

With 85 per cent of Scotland’s land area currently classified as less favoured, this was a key issue, he said.