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.