EU notified of main decisions on direct payments

Details of the way the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be implemented in Scotland will today (August 1, 2014) be formally submitted to Europe.

The EU must receive notification by midnight tonight of how the main decisions on how Scotland will make direct payments from 2015.

The decisions include those set out by the Rural Affairs Secretary in his statement to the Scottish Parliament in June as well as confirmation of the voluntary coupled support schemes for beef and sheep.

It also includes confirmation of what some farmers will have to do to meet the Ecological Focus Area (EFA) requirement of the new greening element of the CAP.

The new rules do not apply to all farmers, but generally speaking farmers with more than 15 hectares of arable land must deliver an area corresponding to five per cent of the arable land as EFA which in Scotland can comprise any of the following:

• Land lying fallow (mandatory weighting factor of 1 applies)
• Catch crops (mandatory weighting factor of 0.3 applies)
• Nitrogen fixing crops (mandatory weighting factor of 0.7 applies)
• Field margins and buffer strips along water courses, for which a decision has been taken to apply a weighting factor of 1.5

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:

“With this year’s harvest well and truly underway and farmers and crofters across Scotland planning for next year’s operations, I am pleased to be able to confirm the rules for the new greening element of the CAP which accounts for almost a third of direct farm funding.

“I have already confirmed that Europe’s standard greening measures – the three crop rule, retaining permanent grassland and EFAs – will apply in Scotland in 2015 while we continue seek approval to implement our proposed equivalence measures from 2016 onwards.

“For EFAs we need to achieve a balance between food production and meeting our environmental goals and obligations. That is why I have taken the decision to apply a weighting factor of 1.5 to field margins and buffer strips along water courses which are generally the lowest productive areas of arable land and the most valuable for the environment.

“Scotland’s arable area is not generally given over to monoculture and therefore our environmental goals are also reliant on maintaining the mosaic of vegetation that currently exists across much of Scotland.

“Of course, there are various exemptions for these greening measures and not all farmers will have to adhere to EFA rules – and those that do can choose from any of the available options in order to meet their EFA requirements.

“The European Commission has already pledged to review EFAs next year, to consider the administrative burden on Member States and producers as well as the potential impact on food production. These are clearly vital issues for Scottish farmers and so Scotland will play our full part in that review process.

“I recognise how important it is that farmers and crofters in Scotland know sooner rather than later about changes to their CAP payments and I will shortly be writing to producers with more detail about the new rules.”

On voluntary coupled support, Mr Lochhead added:

“It is essential that the new CAP supports food production and targets genuinely active farmers and our coupled support schemes for beef and sheep are essential in helping us achieve that.

“The Scottish Government has fought hard for coupled support in the new CAP. Throughout initial negotiations the UK didn’t want coupled support at all but in the end was outvoted and had to concede to eight per cent. We then lobbied the UK hard for the modest flexibility we now have that allows a higher rate of coupled support in Scotland.

“This process should have been straightforward as the money for these schemes will come entirely from Scotland’s direct payments budget. This flexibility merely provides us with the mechanism to target support in line with Scottish priorities.

“The process for securing agreement has undoubtedly been challenging but I am pleased that we have achieved this positive result for Scottish livestock producers.

“It means we are continuing coupled support for beef in Scotland. Specialist beef producers on the mainland will be able to claim around €100 per calf with island beef producers eligible for higher payments worth around €160 per calf. And under our new sheep scheme, sheep producers in our most fragile areas will be eligible for additional payments of around €100 per ewe hogg – which is equivalent to approximately €25 per ewe.”

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