SCOTTISH FARMERS are ill prepared for the move to a single farm payment in 2005, according to a number of high profile speakers at the Scottish Agricultural College‘s Outlook conference.

Too few were ready for a life with less subsidy, said rural affairs minister Ross Finnie at the event on Nov 16.

“It is vital that farmers don‘t look at the single farm payment as part of their enterprise and proceed as if nothing has changed. The SFP must be seen as an essential cushion to allow farmers to respond to markets,” said Mr Finnie.

SAC farm business consultant Douglas Bell said farmers did not appear to understand the deductions that would be made to their subsidy payments.

He pointed out that the national reserve would take 3% from all farmers, while modulation would divert 10% by 2007, and the beef national envelope would take 10% from cattle farmers to fund the Scottish Beef Calf Scheme.

And financial discipline, the EU‘s fallback mechanism to adjust the agriculture budget from 2006/07, could result in further deductions.

John Kinnaird, president of NFU Scotland, said that the rest of the supply chain had to support farmers during the shift in emphasis to a market-driven industry. 

“The power to secure supplies rests in the hands of buyers and they must react to their new responsibility,” he said.

The three year old code of conduct agreed by the supermarkets was failing farmers and should be given legal teeth to rebalance the supply chain, he added.