NFU Scotland’s new President, Nigel Miller, has used his first formal meeting with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead, to map out the Union’s views and concerns around the planned reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
Fri, 04 Mar 2011
Mr Miller also used the meeting, which took place in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, to make the point that any new support scheme to emerge from the reform must be accompanied by a substantially more proportionate penalty system than that currently in place.
Speaking from Holyrood, Mr Miller said:
“The investigation into future support arrangements for Scotland, carried out by Brian Pack on behalf of the Scottish Government, has put Scotland ahead of the rest of Europe in mapping out what the nation’s farmers require to emerge from the CAP reform discussions. Those discussions will continue over the coming months and years and we must capitalise on the momentum we have built up here.
“The principles outlined in the Pack Report are good and highlight the need and justification for continued funding being targeted at those actively involved in farming here in Scotland. Where question marks remain, is over the best model for delivering that funding in Scotland and whether the LFA/non-LFA approach, as proposed in Pack, is correct.
“To ensure we have a grasp of what our members are thinking on this crucial issue, we have launched a questionnaire this week on the future direction of the Single Farm Payment. We have already looked at and considered several models for delivering support but no one model has been universally supported. The purpose of this consultation is to seek our members’ views on a range of principles for any new support system so that we can identify the priorities and discuss those with our politicians ahead of negotiations. It is still the big principles being debated at EU level that we need to influence.
“The questionnaire also tackles the emerging European question about the ‘greening’ of CAP and support payments and whether higher environmental standards should be driven through direct support payments – Pillar One – or through rural development – Pillar Two. Our initial gut feeling is Pillar One is more acceptable but we await the reaction from our members. The more immediate worry for them is that any attempts to ramp up environmental requirements, whether Pillar One or Pillar Two, will come with a greater level of cross-compliance and inspection.
“One condition of agreeing to new greening measures must be a revised penalty system – or it will be difficult to get industry buy-in. The existing inspection and penalty requirements around SFP are already responsible for a culture of fear - both for Government officials open to EU audit, and farmers who fear inspections and disproportionate penalties being attached to their SFP for what can be minor breaches of the rules.
“We need to make new a new, proportionate penalty system a key plank of any CAP reform discussions. Any inspection system must focus on outcomes and penalties properly recognise the difference between those acting illegally and those who have made a genuine mistake.
“At a European level, there is clearly a lack of communication between the Commission, the auditors and Member State Governments over inspections and penalty regimes. That filters all the way back to those farming on the ground and results in thousands of pounds being stripped back each year from producers for often minor errors. We would be keen to explore with Scottish Government and Westminster if there is a role for a new body at European level to look at proportionate enforcement.”
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