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Scotland needs fair deal from CAP reform
Scottish farmers need a fair deal from common agricultural policy reform as well as support to continue sustainable and productive farming, ensuring continued high level of food supply.
That was the message from Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead as he responded to the European Commission's proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) published yesterday.
Mr Lochhead said that the Scottish Government would negotiate to secure the best possible deal for Scotland's farmers as well as ensuring that the new policy encourages new entrants into the sector and highlighted the importance of all stakeholders working together as the negotiations move forward.
Mr Lochhead said:
"In a world of rising populations, and a shortage of land, the Common Agricultural Policy's primary purpose must always be to support food production and the £500m or so of support it delivers to Scotland's farmers every year is vital to ensuring we remain a food producing nation with vibrant rural communities.
"Without direct support, our farmers and crofters will simply not be able to afford to produce our food in competition with other non-EU countries that do not have to meet our high standards, and at the same time deliver other public benefits society expects such as biodiversity and reduced carbon emissions.
"These proposals are a fair starting point for what will be a very tough and protracted negotiations and it is good to see that some features of the existing should be retained.
"We have lobbied hard to ensure Scotland's needs are recognised and some of these proposals reflect our asks - but plenty of tough negotiations lie ahead. We will take our case to the UK Government, and direct to Europe.
"We can't underestimate the challenge of moving from historical payments to area based payments. If not handled properly, the transition could end up being a bureaucratic nightmare and painful for all concerned. However, it is widely accepted that we need to change a regime that excludes new entrants and calculates payments based on what farmers were doing a decade ago.
"The key is to ensure the new CAP delivers fairness, flexibility and simplification. That means fairness in the allocation of both Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 budgets, flexibility to develop a CAP that meets Scotland's diverse farming needs and simplification to ensure farmers are not burdened with a disproportionate monitoring regime. Importantly, we also need a policy that encourages new entrants into agriculture and rewards genuine activity.
"While we need to study the proposals in more detail, there are elements which we are pleased with, including the retention of direct payments in a strong Pillar 1, continued ability to use coupled support for our vulnerable livestock sector and more robust definition of agricultural activity.
"It is also good news that the proposals seem to offer greater flexibility in the Pillar 2 Rural Development Regulation and the prospect of a fairer allocation of the Pillar 2 budget.
"However, we have real concerns over other elements of the proposals - such as the crop diversification measures which could be difficult, for example, for small farms and crofts with one field of barley, and the capping of direct payments may look good on paper to some people but will be difficult to deliver. When the world is facing food shortages, we should also avoid needlessly putting aside good quality land, and I am therefore pleased that farmers will get credit for the areas already being managed for environmental benefit. The definition of active farmer also needs to be carefully crafted to avoid creating problems for some crofters and small farmers.
"So after months of preparation and speculation, we can finally start the formal negotiations to secure a fair deal for Scotland's farmers.
"We all know today is just the start of a long process and it is important we all now work together to secure the best possible deal for Scottish agriculture. The views of Scottish farmers will be crucial throughout the negotiating process and I will shortly be announcing an engagement plan to allow everyone to stay close to the decision-making process. And while we will not get all we want, I am confident that the more effort we all put in, the more we will achieve."
The proposals announced today cover Direct Payments; Rural Development; Market Measures and Financing, and Management and Monitoring of the CAP.
The publication of the proposals marks the start of the formal negotiating process on the CAP.