Gold plating and red tape still feature in Scottish greening

The delayed launch of Scottish Government’s guide to greening rules has seen it fail to tackle gold-plating and red tape according to NFU Scotland.

The greening guide for 2016, launched at the end of last week, has missed a crucial opportunity to introduce simplification and strip out gold-plating previously introduced by Scottish Government. As a result, Scottish growers remain at a competitive disadvantage compared to their English counterparts.

On a positive note, the 2016 guide to greening is a more concise and readable document than its 2015 equivalent and, subject to EU approval, there is the commitment to introduce equivalence measures for the crop diversification element, also known as the ‘three-crop’ rule.

However, for Scottish growers, additional rules around Nitrogen fixing crops means that this is no longer a viable Ecological Focus Area (EFA) option while new nutrient management plans for permanent grassland brings a paper exercise for farmers.

NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “We know that greening, as an important element of CAP, is here to stay. But with the Scottish Government going beyond the measures required by Europe, it had an obligation to ensure that any additional requirements were also compatible with profitable agriculture.

“By adding in red tape and building in gold-plated rules, it has failed to recognise the huge environmental strides that have already been taken on Scottish farms while businesses still struggle to remain efficient and productive. This latest greening guide will be a huge disappointment at the farm level and a blow at a time when margins are wafer thin.

“Going into a new season, it was crucial our growers knew at an early stage what their greening options were so they could work within their own farming systems to ensure the impact of greening on their ability to produce food was minimal.

“While the greening guidance is out now, it would have been more beneficial to have had this document in circulation several weeks ago when plans for the 2015/16 year were being drawn up. It is more concise and readable than the 2015 version, but its publication comes at a time when many Scottish growers will have already made their planting and greening decisions earlier this autumn.

“To add to the frustration, Scottish Government has ignored recommendations from NFU Scotland on stripping out gold-plating and red tape and largely gone with measures that we knew were coming in 2016 anyway.

“On the positive side, equivalence measures, subject to EU approval, may help growers deal better with the crop diversification element of greening – also known as the three-crop rule.

“However, Scottish Government introduction of a third management prescription around nitrogen fixing crops renders a potentially beneficial environmental option virtually meaningless to Scottish growers and is in stark contrast to the way nitrogen fixing crops are viewed as a greening option in England.

“The need for farmers to now meet a nutrient management plan on all fields of permanent grassland is also a paper exercise from Scottish Government that goes above and beyond Europe’s standard greening rules.

“Scottish Government had a responsibility to ensure that in delivering its own greening demands it didn’t come at a disproportionate cost to farmers. They have failed to deliver on that.”

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