Progress for Scotland in EU farm talks

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By a Newsnet reporter

With the proposals put forward for the latest round of EU Common Agricultural Policy reform continuing to raise concerns amongst Scotland’s farmers, news of some flexibility emerging in Brussels has been welcomed by the Scottish Government.

CAP funding, in the form of direct support and also grants to aide with diversification of farming businesses and enhance the natural environment, is especially needed in Scotland’s hills, mountainous areas and on the islands. 

By a Newsnet reporter

With the proposals put forward for the latest round of EU Common Agricultural Policy reform continuing to raise concerns amongst Scotland’s farmers, news of some flexibility emerging in Brussels has been welcomed by the Scottish Government.

CAP funding, in the form of direct support and also grants to aide with diversification of farming businesses and enhance the natural environment, is especially needed in Scotland’s hills, mountainous areas and on the islands.

However, Scotland’s farmers’ fear that some of the proposed new rule – which the EU hopes will be ready to take effect in 2014 – could be almost impossible to comply with; meaning many could be left without vital subsidy.

The most controversial proposals are the so called ‘greening’ elements of the reforms.

Much of the anger espoused by Scottish farmers about the CAP greening proposals has come about because many of them believe they are already operating in an environmentally friendly manner.

Commenting recently on the EU stance, George Milne of the National Sheep Association of Scotland (NSA), stated “Farmers are being told to address greening issues – but many sheep farmers already are.”

Mr Milnes words are backed up by Stuart Housden of RSPB Scotland who blogged: “I have a vision for agriculture in Scotland.  I want a vibrant, competitive and confident industry that produces high quality food, but which also plays a key role in protecting and enhancing our valued wildlife and landscapes – for their intrinsic and economic value.”

“I am worried about our producers on the Islands and in the hills and high glens, because they often farm in ways which do look after wildlife very well.  But they get the least subsidy and support of all.”

These concerns over the CAP reform proposals, voiced by farmers and conservation bodies alike, have been further heightened with fears that Scotland’s views are not being fairly represented in Brussels by UK Ministers.

However, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, was this week working to directly put the Scottish viewpoint to the EU in Brussels.

Speaking after this weeks’ talks, Mr Lochhead commented: “I’ve always said with greening, that the trick will be to find the right balance.

“The Commission need to deliver proposals that are sensible, workable and flexible enough to meet individual member states’ needs – proposals that deliver environmental benefits but don’t place obstacles in the way of farmers doing their day-to-day work and adversely affect food production.

“Our farmers will welcome the additional flexibility that has (now) been signalled by the Commissioner and although there is still some way to go the door is now open for further negotiations to find a route to greening the Common Agricultural Policy in a way that suits Scotland. There will be relief that the Commissioner has moved from listening mode to responding mode.”