Confusion over area-based CAP support

A RANGE of options for the new area-based support payments planned for the reformed Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in January 2015 will be presented next week.

But any of the 20,000 Scottish farm businesses looking for firm figures to stick into future cashflows will be disappointed as major issues, such as the amount of land to be covered, have yet to be agreed.

The Scottish Government, is hosting the conference in Edinburgh next Wednesday and hopes stakeholders will indicate their preferred routes from about 40 different possibilities ranging from the classification of the land according to its agricultural capacity to payments according to the predominant soil type within a parish boundary.

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Its approach is different from earlier work on the same issue by Brian Pack, as his attempt had very many variables and it was subsequently difficult to determine which ones were influential and which were not.

The government model to be dealt with next week has concentrated on getting the land part of the equation pinned down and, after that, the intention is the variables can be added to it.

Depending on the preferred system, the next phase in setting the area base could either be a desktop exercise working from national soil classification maps or it could involve farm visits across Scotland.

The simpler the system chosen the fewer arguments there will be from those whose land is on the margins of any category.

The shift from the present system will create winners; ­especially among those who have entered farming in the past decade and who have been excluded from support until the changeover happens. ]

There will also be losers; especially those who have given up farming in the past decade but who have retained subsidy entitlements, so-called slipper farmers. The land on which they claim support without any active farming will not be eligible in the future unless they activate it by keeping sheep or some other form of productive farming. This unknown area of land is one reason why the Scottish Government is unable to put financial figures into its land equation. But the other major issue is just how much money will come to Scotland or, indeed, to the UK and thereafter north of the Border. The EU has not yet decided the UK allocation and negotiations within the UK will have to follow.

There is also the question as to how quickly the new system will be installed. The Scottish Government is confident it can hit the January 2015 start date for the next CAP with the preferred transition period to full Area Based Payments being around five years.

In order to cope with all of this, the government is investing in a new computer system to do the Direct Payments but existing computers will continue to handle the Scottish Rural Development Programme.

A LEADING Scottish pig producer is leaving the industry, citing bad weather and farm diversification.

Former NFU Scotland pig committee chairman Andrew Peddie also served as Scotlean’s chairman and is on the Quality Meat Scotland board, with his term ending early next year.

His family farm is at Cornceres, Anstruther, in Fife, and Peddie recently opened Silverdyke Caravan Park, which has permission for 129 holiday homes. The farm currently has 250 outdoor sows.

Peddie said: “Aside from diversification, the weather has played a major part in our decision to exit pigs. After two difficult winters, we felt the time was right to take stock.”

The family plans to increase the size of their herd of suckler cows.

BLUE-ear pig disease is to be tackled in a major research tie-up involving the Roslin Institute and Iowa State University. The US Department of Agriculture awarded $3 million (£1.94m) while Roslin is supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.