Committee calls for honesty on Common Agricultural Policy reform

27/04/2012

Scotland should get a fair share of Common Agricultural Policy funds and the European Commission needs to be honest about the timetable for reform. These were just two of the concerns raised in a letter from the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee to the Scottish and UK Governments and the European Commission.

Committee Convener, Rob Gibson MSP said:
“The Common Agricultural Policy affects thousands of Scottish farmers and crofters along with the communities they support, so it’s vital the Commission get this right. In our letter, the Committee has expressed concern over the proposed reform of this policy.

“Reform was meant to deliver a better deal for Scottish farmers. However, our Committee is clear that these proposals do not deliver progress or give Scotland its fair share of CAP funding. If we do not learn the lessons of the past we put at risk the future of Scottish farming.

“We are also calling on the Commission to urgently clarify its timetable for reform. It is clear that the farming community do not have faith that this can be delivered by 2014. The Commission needs to come clean and be honest with Scottish farmers on a realistic timetable.”

The Committee has called for the current proposals to be substantially revised because they do not deliver the desired outcomes of a fairer and more flexible system of support for Scottish farmers. The letter explains that the proposals are overly bureaucratic, lack transparency and do not reflect the diversity of the landscape in Scotland.

Following a comprehensive programme of evidence sessions, the Committee has outlined the following issues:

  • Scotland must get a fairer share of both direct support funds (pillar one) and rural development funds (pillar two) within the EU and UK. Scotland currently receives the lowest share of rural development (pillar two) funds across the whole of Europe.
  • The Committee does not agree that the phasing out of direct payments to farmers is in the interests of Scottish Agriculture. The Committee considers that these payments provide a life line to Scottish farmers and crofters and should be continued.
  • The timetable of the new CAP is scheduled for 2014 however the Committee is calling for urgent clarification on whether this is achievable and what the interim proposals would be. 
  • The Committee welcomes the inclusion of a ’Scottish clause’ to tackle the issue of ‘slipper farmers’, that is farmers receiving subsidy payments for land that is not farmed. However, it must reflect Scotland’s diverse land, taking into account farming which could include grazing of heather not just grass; and not exclude those such as crofters from accessing funding.
  • The greening proposals need a significant amount of revision before they will be considered workable by the farming community.

Background

Click here for a link to the full letter.

The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee has been considering the European Commission’s proposed reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) over recent months.

The Committee began its scrutiny by taking evidence from Struan Stevenson MEP, and Ian Hudghton MEP. This was followed by a roundtable session with stakeholders and then evidence from Alyn Smith MEP and George Lyon MEP, both of whom sit on the European Parliament’s Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development. The Committee then questioned the UK Minister of State for Agriculture and Food and, finally, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment.
The European Commission released proposals for the new CAP in October 2011. The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must agree the proposals before they can come into force. The final CAP agreement is dependent on agreement being reached on the long-term EU budget.

Supporting statistics:

  • Scotland’s pillar 1 and pillar 2 support payments are well below the EU average. At €125 per hectare, Scotland has the 4th lowest average Pillar 1 allocation per hectare in the EU (only Latvia, Romania and Estonia have lower levels of support). For Pillar 2 support, Scotland is right at the bottom of the EU list at less than €10 a hectare.
  • Pillar 1 support is made up entirely of EU funding. It consists of the Single Farm Payment (around £500m per year of direct support) and the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme (around £20m per year).
  • Pillar 2 support is a mixture of Scottish Government funds and EU co-financing. It is paid out through the Scotland Rural Development Programme which consists of a number of schemes, the most financially important of these are the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (around £65m per year) and the Rural Priorities scheme (which has allocated £500m over 4 years to farmers and foresters for environmental work, measures to improve competitiveness, and measures to provide wider benefits for rural communities).
  • There was a gap in funding between the Rural Development Programme 2000-2006 and the current SRDP 2007-2013 due to difficulties in reaching agreement at the EU level on the proposals as well as the timing of the Scottish elections. This meant that farmers could not access Rural Development support (such as agri-environment measures) in 2007 and most of 2008.

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