London urged to '˜play fair' by Scottish dairy sector

As Scotland's dairy farmers were yesterday being urged to take a close look at the EU emergency support measures that could see them paid to reduce milk production, a row was erupting over the share of the funds likely to come to Scotland.

Scotland's dairy farmers face 'unique' pressures, said Fergus Ewing. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Scotland's dairy farmers face 'unique' pressures, said Fergus Ewing. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

And rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has called on the UK government to “play fair” by Scotland’s dairy farmers in its allocation of the emergency funding in light of fears that Scotland was set to get less than its normal 16 per cent share of the UK’s common agricultural policy (CAP) funding.

In a letter to Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs minister George Eustice, Ewing stressed the need for fair distribution of EU emergency funding and called for distribution to be based on this long-established model that “recognised the unique features” of the industry in Scotland.

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“It’s important that the allocation of the EU emergency support within the UK is fair and equitable,” said Ewing, who stated that the uncertainty over Brexit had added to price volatility being suffered by producers.

“The level of remoteness and limited access to processing facilities, which affects large numbers of our livestock farmers also present pressures which are unique to Scotland. That’s why agriculture takes on a much greater significance for the Scottish rural economy and for the sustainability of our fragile communities.

“This has long been recognised by the fact Scotland receives just over 16 per cent of UK CAP payments. I’m therefore urging George Eustice to urgently reconsider this and play fair by Scotland’s dairy farmers. The CAP model should be used to allocate this package of support across the UK.”

Meanwhile NFU Scotland was advising dairy producers to take an urgent look at the terms being offered in the first tranche of the emergency package – which closes for applications on 21 September.

“Given the extreme problems within the dairy sector over the past two years, the scheme could be an important form of support to struggling farm businesses and we are urging all Scottish dairy farmers, in discussion with their milk buyer and advisers, to consider if the scheme is right for them,” said the union’s dairy policy manager, George Jamieson.

“The voluntary scheme provides money to producers who reduce the amount of milk they produce over a fixed three-month period, when compared to the same period the year before,” said Jamieson, who added that payments under the scheme would be equivalent to 12.23p per litre on the reduced volume of milk.