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11/06/14 14:39

Supporting rural Scotland

Rural Affairs Secretary announces CAP implementation plan.

The package of measures to support Scottish farming, food production, rural communities and the environment has been announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

In a statement to the Scottish Parliament, Mr Lochhead outlined how the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will be implemented in Scotland including plans for direct farm payments and Scotland’s rural development programme between 2015 and 2020.

The new system has been developed following extensive discussions and consultation with industry organisations and the public.

It includes tough 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.

The main points announced today 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
* A separate capital grant scheme for crofters in the rural development programme.

The Rural Affairs Secretary 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.

“Scottish agriculture underpins our rural economy and rural communities and is itself underpinned by the Common Agricultural Policy. As I have always been clear, it is therefore vital that the new CAP supports farming and food production, as well as responsible land use, and strikes the right balance between flexibility and complexity.

“The measures I am announcing today will target support at genuinely active farmers – including new entrants – as well as specific measures to support Scottish livestock producers and the environment.

“In the face of the constraints imposed by the UK-negotiated budget deal, EU rules and challenging market conditions I have consulted extensively on CAP reform in Scotland and carefully considered all views.

“I am confident this is the best possible CAP package for Scotland under the circumstances, and will lay the foundations for a successful Scottish agricultural sector for years to come.

“Of course, if Scotland had been an independent country during the last round of CAP talks, we would have received an additional €1 billion in direct farm support and been able to join other countries in negotiating an uplift of hundreds of millions of euros in our rural development budget which helps our rural communities.

“It drives home the need for an independent Scotland to have our own seat at the top table in Europe for the next CAP negotiations.”

Commenting on the specific support for Scottish beef, Mr Lochhead said:

“I have been particularly conscious of the likely impact of these CAP reforms on Scotland’s beef sector which is worth over £2 billion to the Scottish economy as a whole and likely to be hit hardest by the move to area-based payments.

“That is why I am announcing £45 million of additional funds for an ambitious beef improvement package. It will run over three years of the rural development programme and its detailed shape will be decided after I have received recommendations from Jim McLaren and his Beef 2020 group. This package will complement the eight per cent coupled support for beef available under Pillar 1 and taken together these measures will help safeguard the future of this crucial sector.”

On the rural development programme, Mr Lochhead added:

“The rural development programme is designed to deliver our key priorities of sustainable economic growth, protecting the environment and tackling climate change, and vibrant rural communities. That is why I have increased funding for agri-environment schemes by £10 million per year and maintained budgets for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS), forestry and LEADER, as well as reinstating a separate capital grant scheme for crofters.”

Notes to editors

The Rural Affairs Secretary’s statement to the Scottish Parliament can be accessed here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/Speeches-Briefings/Richard-Lochhead-CAP-statement-d83.aspx