Scottish Land & Estates is urging the Scottish Government to enable an orderly transition to area payments when Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead makes his CAP reform announcement next week.
Scottish Land & Estates is also calling for Mr Lochhead to split the rough grazing region, if at all possible. This could limit an unhelpful redistribution of support and avoid the danger of creating a new slipper farmer issue.
David Seed, Chairman of Scottish Land & Estates Primary Industries Committee, said: “The move to area payments is long overdue because the historic system has become increasingly difficult to defend, but it is important that the process of moving to area payments is phased in so that businesses can adapt. Some farm businesses will be significantly affected by the move to area payments and to make the jump in one step would put many under significant pressure and potentially result in significant change in the industry”.
“We are not seeking to find ways to maintain the status quo. It is simply that we think that the process of change should be measured so that we minimise the potentially negative consequences that could be experienced by a single step”.
The other extremely difficult issue associated with the move to area payments relates to the redistribution of support away from the most productive to the relatively less productive with the potential for large amounts of public money, that is meant to support Scottish farming, going to large areas of unproductive ground.
This has the potential to create a new ‘slipper farmer’ issue which could bring the whole system into disrepute and Scottish Land & Estates is extremely keen that the Scottish Government implement a system that focuses on providing support to active farmers and avoids over-supporting extensive businesses.
Andrew Midgley, Head of Policy, said: “Our members tell us that they don’t want to see large amounts of money that is meant to support farming going to people who are not farming and that those farming on very large extensive areas should receive appropriate and not disproportionately large support payments”.
“For this reason, we want to see robust activity requirements to ensure that support only goes to those who are actively farming. We would also like to see three payment regions if at all possible so that the poorest ground receives a low payment. If this can be achieved without creating too many problems it would enable the Scottish Government to target funds in a constructive way. It is in no one’s interest that large amounts of public money is transferred to the poorest land”.