The Scottish Government has announced that the 2013/15 rule has been dropped.
This was the rule that an applicant under the new CAP regime would have been allocated a number of entitlements equal to the number of eligible hectares declared either in 2013 or would have declared in 2015, whichever is the lowest. One of the reasons that this was being considered was because of concerns from some parts of the industry that landowners would take land back in hand between 2013 and 2015 in order to exploit the system. There were, however, real problems with this rule as it put many expanding businesses in a difficult position.
Mr Lochhead said:
“The Commission advised that the decision to use both the 2013/15 rule and the wider access provision would not ensure equal treatment to all farmers, and the Scottish Government could essentially be accused of discriminating between new and existing farmers.
“Therefore the advice from Europe is that we cannot go ahead without excluding people. It’s disappointing but we have no choice but to use only the wider access provision – doing this will ensure that businesses which have genuinely expanded between 2013 and now will be allocated entitlements based on their eligible land claimed in 2015, and will not be restricted to the land they claimed in 2013, which was one of the concerns raised by stakeholders.
“It also means that we will retain the wider access clause, allowing automatic access to payment entitlements for farmers who were actively farming in 2013 without Single Farm Payments, therefore avoiding the need for these farmers to claim entitlements through the National Reserve.”
The Scottish Government originally planned to use both the 2013/15 rule and wider access provision of the CAP. The European Commission has advised that the two provisions were incompatible, with one seeking to reduce the area of land under future entitlements while the other seeks to maximise the area under future entitlements. Concerns were raised about using the 2013/15 rule – for example businesses which had genuinely expanded since 2013 would be disadvantaged. If it had been decided to drop the wider access provision in order to continue with the 2013/15 rule, new entrants and those in currently unsupported sectors, would have to apply to the National Reserve rather than have the certainty of automatic access to the new CAP. Some of these applicants might not meet the criteria and so still find themselves disadvantaged under the new CAP. It was in light of this that the decision was taken to drop the 2013/15 rule.
The full press release can be found here...