Farming: Lochhead calls for LFAS flexibility

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The newest proposal for ‘fine tuning’ the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) replacement scheme needs more flexibility to make sure all farmers in Scotland that should benefits from it do so.

At the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels today, Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead pressed hard for enough flexibility in the fine tuning exercise to make sure it gives the right result for the new ‘Areas facing Natural Constraints’ (ANC) in Scotland.

The Minister also again highlighted to the UK Government the need to ensure there will be no gap between schemes.

Speaking from the Council, Mr Lochhead said:

“With 85 per cent of land being farmed in Scotland covered by the current LFASS scheme it is essential there is enough flexibility in the fine tuning exercise for the new ANC to make sure Scotland’s farmers get a correct and fair result.

“While we are fully supportive of the need to make changes to the scheme after the discretion the current scheme allows was abused by some other Member States, Scotland did not abuse that discretion and so our farmers must not be penalised.

“Our criteria are very close to what the Commission now propose but their current plans for fine tuning could lead to some genuine cases in Scotland missing out. We cannot allow that to happen, therefore I have been pressing the UK Government today to put pressure on the Commission to ensure we get the flexibility we need.

“I have also been pushing hard to make sure that until a new system is in place, which will not be for several years, the EU allows continuity of the existing LFASS payments in any interim period. It is essential there is no gap in payments.”

The Cabinet Secretary also had a first meeting with the new DEFRA Secretary of State Owen Paterson and set out key Scottish priorities for the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Following the meeting Mr Lochhead said:

“I was pleased to get an early meeting with Mr Paterson and highlight to him the importance of certain key areas of both the CAP and CFP reforms that are unique to Scotland but are of course also of vital importance to Scotland.

“There is a clear need for the UK Government to listen to and act upon Scotland’s concerns in these key areas and I have invited Mr Paterson to come and visit Scotland’s hill farmers and fishing ports soon to see and hear about the issues first-hand.

“As we move forward immediately into two or three months of busy negotiations on both sets of reforms, it will be very important that the new DEFRA team understand the areas in which Scottish needs differ from those of the rest of the UK, and why. We must be able to deliver a reformed CAP and CFP that will secure the future of both sectors in Scotland.”