Minister announces new CAP measures
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced a package of measures to implement the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in Scotland, on 11 June 2014.
This included plans plans for direct farm payments and Scotland's rural development programme between 2015 and 2020.
These include new rules to ensure only genuinely active farmers are entitled to direct payments as well as specific support for new entrants, the environment and Scotland's livestock producers.
Mr Lochhead said: "This is the most radical redistribution of CAP payments ever and we have strained every sinew to forge from challenging circumstances a production-based and sustainable agricultural policy. And all this against a background of an atrocious budget negotiated by the UK government.
"Our producers will continue to put food on our tables - and on tables around the world - protect our environment and support our rural communities while at the same time addressing flaws in the previous CAP such as inactive slipper farmers and new entrants being frozen out."
The main points announced include:
- Strict activity requirements that farmers will have to meet to be eligible for direct payments. This will remove land with no agricultural activity from the payment regime, which is currently estimated at 600,000 hectares
- Basic direct farm payments will be capped at around £400,000 per year after labour costs
- Sporting estates will be added to the negative list to exclude them from receiving direct farm payments unless they can prove they are a genuine farm business
- The creation of three payment regions and a coupled support scheme for sheep for producers in the third region
- A five year transition between 2015 and 2019 for the move from historic to area-based farm payments, which is required by Europe. New entrants, who have previously been excluded from receiving direct farm payments, will get the regional average from day one of the new CAP
- A new £45 million three year beef improvement scheme. This is in addition to the 8 per cent coupled support scheme for beef which is being retained. Beef producers on the islands will be eligible for higher coupled support payments than mainland producers, with an uplift of around €65 per calf
- A greener CAP, with farmers being rewarded with Pillar 1 top-up payments for taking action to protect biodiversity and reduce emissions, and confirmation that rural development funding for agri-environment and climate change schemes will increase by more than £10 million per year as proposed in our consultation
Labour's Claire Baker welcomed the measures to tackle slipper farming and sporting estates.
She said: "The set of decisions were always going to be challenging and I appreciate how difficult it is to get the balance right.
"But the Cabinet Secretary recognised that there were calls for a quicker transition (to area-based payments), and there are concerns that 2019 is at the top end of a transaction period."
Conservative Alex Fergusson challenged Mr Lochhead's criticism of the UK Government's negotiations with the EU.
He said: "On the extra coupling issue, I reject any notion that the UK Government was reticent in bringing this forward, indeed I would argue that it fought for it and has delivered it.