Landowners want CAP replacement action now

While new policy measures and continued farm support will be required to ensure a healthy and prosperous rural sector post-Brexit, decision-makers should grasp the opportunity to improve on the performance achieved under the EU's common agricultural policy (CAP).

Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone. Picture: Contributed
Scottish Land & Estates chairman David Johnstone. Picture: Contributed

Making the plea, Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) and the Country Landowners Association (CLA) – whose members farm and manage over 16 million acres – have also called for immediate action from all levels of government to provide some certainty and clarity for farming and other rural businesses.

“The CAP is cumbersome and unwieldy but provides important economic, environmental and social benefits. It would be disastrous for agriculture, forestry, the environment and the wider rural economy if we were to lose momentum post Brexit,” said SLE chairman David Johnstone, as the two organisations launched a joint briefing paper on future policies.

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Stating that businesses could only begin to prepare for the future once the ground-rules had been set, he said that this required a replacement for the CAP to be drawn up – adding that such a complex task should be addressed “sooner rather than later”.

He said that, given the structures of existing legislation, any replacement would mean a UK-wide policy would need to be developed by the administrations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland in order to take into account the differing characteristics and needs of the rural sectors in each country.

“It would then be for the devolved administrations to implement the policy in accordance with their own needs and aspirations,” he said.

Calling for an early commitment to a new food, farming and environmental policy, he said that the UK government had to provide sufficient funds for the policy across the whole of the UK – and that a long-term approach was required.

“This should be designed to allow land managers to provide the country with a safe, secure supply of food and wood products, to continue improving biodiversity, help tackle climate change and manage the UK’s distinctive landscapes for this generation and for those to come,” said Johnstone.

However, the document highlighted that these objectives could not be delivered through existing markets – nor achieved without government support.

“The sector is diverse, made up of a multitude of businesses, including thousands of small and micro businesses, which must cope with natural processes, pests and diseases, increasingly unpredictable weather and volatile global markets,” stated the briefing.

The document stressed that the policy should allow UK farmers to be competitive on domestic and international markets and also advocated promoting innovative and sustainable ways to increase production and manage risk in order to secure food security for the nation.