8 December 1995

Lower penalties for Scots from area overshoot

By Philip Clarke

SCOTTISH growers have won a small, but significant reprieve in their penalty set-aside requirements for 1996.

After lengthy negotiations, EU farm ministers last week agreed measures to dilute further the effects of overshooting arable base areas.

Following a 3.7% overshoot last harvest, Scotlands non-LFA growers have already had 1.85% knocked off their area aid and set-aside payments. They were also in line for 1.85% extra uncompensated set-aside for 1996.

But the Brussels deal allows 85% of the area of voluntary set-aside to be deducted from the overshoot calculation. This takes Scotlands penalty set-aside to 1.1%, a change welcomed by the Scottish NFU, which has been lobbying for the scrapping of penalties.

But there could be further concessions, as the EU commission has been instructed to draw up proposals allowing overshoots in one region to be offset by undershoots in another. This would eliminate the penalties for Scotland altogether.

These proposals are expected within the next two months. "But even if they are made retrospective, they are unlikely to be agreed before Jan 15, when set-aside has to be in place," warns Jim Ward of Savills.

However, a February decision would still leave enough time for Scotlands growers to plough up their 1.1 penalty set-aside and put in a crop of spring barley, adds Andersons Francis Mordaunt. &#42