Commissioner urged to use simplification agenda to get farmers back to producing food

NFU Scotland urged Europe’s leading farm official to use his plans for simplification as an opportunity to get Scotland’s farmers back to the job of producing food.

At the invitation of the Union, EU Agriculture and Rural Development Commissioner Phil Hogan has visited a traditional family farming unit near Haddington in East Lothian, producing cereals, beef and lamb. The visit to Garvald Mains farm was hosted by Robert and Gavin Hamilton and their families.

With a new Common Agricultural Policy, scheduled to run until 2020, creating concerns across Europe, Commissioner Hogan has already opened discussions on the need for simplification and a mid-term review of the new CAP rules.

NFU Scotland believes that this opens up the potential to tackle the need for precious CAP funding to solely reward active farmers; for the flawed ‘greening’ element of CAP to be addressed; and for reforms to allow primary producers to get back to the job of producing food without the burden of unnecessary paperwork and fear of disproportionate penalties.

At Garvald Mains, the Hamiltons ably demonstrated the high quality of produce generated on Scottish farms but also highlighted the impact that reduced support payments; greening and cross-compliance requirements and CAP-related paperwork was having on their ability to grow crops and rear livestock.

Commissioner Hogan was in Edinburgh as part of a three day visit, which also saw him take in Scotland’s largest agricultural event, the Royal Highland Show, currently being held at Ingliston and running until Sunday 21 June. It was Mr Hogan’s first formal visit to the show since his appointment in November 2014.

Speaking after the visit to Garvald Mains, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “This year has clearly demonstrated the impact that market volatility and challenging weather can have on farming businesses, making the need for a CAP that recognises and supports food producers more essential than ever.

“We thank Commissioner Hogan for sharing with us his views for a mid-term review and what his simplification agenda might deliver to the benefit of Scottish farmers. He will have been truly impressed with the quality of cereals, beef and lamb being produced on this mixed unit where farming, the environment and the landscape all go hand in hand. But even excellent systems like that seen at Garvald Mains still require support from the public purse.

“With CAP budgets shrinking, and farm support payments dropping, we must ensure that precious funding is solely available to those actively contributing to our industry through production. As Scotland edges closer to implementing its new CAP schemes, there is no doubt that the current rules will see support reduced on some of our most productive farming units. That is compounded by EU rules on activity which are not robust enough to prevent simple maintenance of productive land to be sufficient to warrant payments.

“Any review must also address areas where responsible farming activity is held back by overly-restrictive environmental requirements that deliver little benefit. Greening measures need urgent reform. These rules to tackle arable monoculture were clearly not designed with Scotland’s rich farmland tapestry in mind and have instead added costs and affected profitability on our arable farms.

“At the same time, we impressed upon Commissioner Hogan the need for his simplification agenda to tackle once and for all the burden of CAP-related paperwork and the fear installed in farmers of getting it wrong. As things stand, the level of penalty attached to unintentional breaches and failures is wholly disproportionate. Let’s address that and get farmers back farming again.”

Get Our E-Newsletter - breaking news to your in-box twice a week
Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

About The Author