Alyn Smith MEP, SNP MEP and member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee, has welcomed confirmation from European Commission officials that they will come to Scotland to discuss the ongoing issue of new entrants and Single Farm Payment eligibility, and speak to Scottish new entrants firsthand about the difficulties they face.
Alyn, in association with the New Entrants Group, extended the invitation to Scotland to the relevant officials in the Commission's Directorate-General for Agriculture, and is pleased that his invitation has been accepted. The officials will be in Scotland at the end of June for two days of meetings and visits with both new entrants and Scottish Government officials.
"Encouraging younger people, with their skills, enthusiasm and innovative mentality, into farming is vital for the future of our food production and the vitality of the rural economy. Currently, however, new entrants have to compete for entitlement on a playing field which is far from level.
"The market in entitlements is not working to support active farming as it should. It is unfair that payments should be based on a historical reference from a decade ago, long before most young farmers started. It is also unfair that, in lieu of an adequate active farmer definition, these payments can then be traded to land investors, keeping them out of the hands of new entrants and further widening that financial gulf.
"The Commission's proposal for a young farmer top up in Pillar I in the new CAP is worth examining, but may not be of use to many young farmers as it is dependent on those farmers already receiving entitlement, which may not be the case. From day one there needs to be a real-time distribution of entitlements to those actually farming the land, with no historic reference.
"I am certain that the Commission officials coming from Brussels will have their work cut out for them, answering the many questions that still persist on this point, and I look forward to welcoming them to Scotland."