29 January 1999

More Scots now backing modulation

MORE than half of Scotlands farmers favour limiting the total amount of subsidies an individual can receive, and the figure is growing.

The TSB Scottish survey, published on Tuesday, showed that 55% of farmers favoured modulation compared with 49% at the same time last year. Only 35% were against support capping (40% last time).

If modulation was introduced, 40% wanted it linked to labour units. But 30% (up from 26% last year) favoured a cash limit per farmer. The remainder suggested a limit on qualifying herd size or acreage.

There was a general move away from the wish for large subsidies and a controlled market and a rise of five percentage points, to 13%, in the number favouring no subsidies and a free market as the way forward for Scottish agriculture.

Positive effect?

More than 60% now believe that farm assurance schemes will have a positive effect on their future. And the Scottish NFU could take some comfort from being rated alongside assurance schemes in the middle of the league table of perceived importance to farming prosperity. Last year the union came second bottom of the poll.

But still clear leaders were EU and UK farm policy. Marketing co-operation, however, a new option in the list, came fourth out of 12. Diversification was not rated highly as a profit booster and organic farming came a clear last in the table.

From another set of options, the single European currency was considered far more beneficial to the future of Scottish farming than Agenda 2000 CAP reforms although 72% thought reform essential. A massive 73% were in favour of the UK joining the Euro compared with 64% last year.

Supermarket power is now rated as the biggest threat to prosperity and more potent than last year. Imports to the UK retained second spot on that count but food safety scares are now seen as less of a threat. Last years experience prompted a doubling in the threat rating given to weather problems.

There were more than 500 survey respondents, with an average farm size of 194ha (480 acres). Almost 70% were owner-occupiers.