European mission to meet new entrants to farming

Next month a party of European Commission officials will arrive in Scotland for a two-day visit to discuss the ongoing issue of new entrants and single farm payment eligibility, speaking to Scottish new entrants about the difficulties they face.

The visit has been organised by Alyn Smith MEP, in association with the New Entrants Group, and Smith said it was necessary because the current system just did not work and existing EU proposals on single farm payments had flaws.

“The market in entitlements is not working to support active farming as it should,” he said. “It is unfair that payments should be based on a historical reference from a decade ago, long before most young farmers started.

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“It is also unfair that, in lieu of an adequate active farmer definition, these payments can then be traded to land investors, keeping them out of the hands of new entrants and further widening that financial gulf.”

While willing to examine the EU proposals, Smith said it might not be of use to many young farmers.

“From day one there needs to be a real-time distribution of entitlements to those actually farming the land, with no historic reference,” he said.

The visit will include an on-farm meeting in Aberdeenshire with a new entrant as well as a round table discussion with Scottish Government officials.

ANDREW ARBUCKLE