Union calls on Scottish government to focus on activity driven support schemes

NFU Scotland has called on Scottish Government to focus on designing its new support schemes around activity and securing the food production base in Scotland.

With decisions on Scotland’s new direct support scheme (Pillar 1) expected soon, the Union has reiterated its concerns that production must be the priority rather than settling for simple systems because they are easy to administer.

Delivery of funding in Scotland’s massive rough grazing region (RGR) – an estimated 3 million hectares – presents the greatest challenge due to the huge differences in land type and the intensity of farming in these hill and island areas. The Union believes the choices open to the Scottish Government to ensure its limited Pillar 1 pot is used effectively are two-fold – Re-mapping the area and give consideration to additional payment regions above those proposed by Scottish Government and/or using additional coupled support and targeting it primarily at sheep produced in these RGR areas.

However, adoption of the so-called ‘French’ redistribution model – where enhanced payments are loaded onto the first 54 hectares included in a claim fails to recognise activity. While Scottish Government may be considering this model because of its low administrative burden, the Union is calling for it to reject such an approach and focus on schemes that will genuinely underpin production.

Looking at options open to Scotland, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller met with Defra Secretary of State Owen Paterson in Edinburgh today (Monday, 12 May) to discuss the UK position with regards to Scotland using UK scheme rules to target additional coupled support to livestock in the RGR.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Miller said:

“Scottish Government must start to distil its views so that Scottish farmers can move on and plan.

“For months, we have called on the Scottish Government to design schemes that are developed with clear outcomes in mind rather than simplicity and ease of administration. Designing systems simply to fit with a computer programme risks destabilising activity and runs the risk of opening the door to a new generation of slipper farming.

“In our opinion, it is a two way choice – looking at remapping Scotland to recognise a greater number of regions or using UK discretion to build in coupling options to recognise the most active farmers in our Rough Grazing Region.

“The French redistribution approach, while administratively simple must come off the table. It is a system designed specifically to meet the needs of very small French farms. Scotland’s agriculture is very different to the kind of farming that this scheme was introduced to support. It would fail to properly recognise activity and hammer the basic area support available to the most active – the very category of farmers that the Scottish Government should be aiming to help.

“Such an approach works against the larger hill units that carry significant stock and provide many jobs. In a blanket shift of support, the French system also strips support out of the medium sized enterprises at the core of Scotland’s cereal, milk and beef production. The threat of further cuts in support to these sectors is ill timed as current pressures from the market highlight the challenge ahead.”

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