THE SCOTTISH Executive‘s CAP reform plans have been broadly endorsed in a report by the Scottish Parliament‘s Environment and Rural Development Committee.

There is general support from the committee for the executive‘s decision to decouple agricultural support fully from production.

Sarah Boyack, who chairs the committee, said: “There was virtually unanimous support from all witnesses for the full decoupling of support from production.”

But she added that the process presented a significant challenge to the industry.

“It is, therefore, essential that the executive provides the industry with complete clarity in relation to the environmental and production standards which it must meet,” Ms Boyack said.

The committee‘s report on the implementation of the CAP reforms in Scotland, which was released on Tuesday (June 8), welcomes the decision to pay the Single Farm Payment (SFP) on a historical basis.

This, it says, will provide stability for the industry while it adapts to full decoupling.

Over time, however, the committee points out that this historical basis will be harder to justify.

It welcomes the Scottish Executive‘s commitment to move away from historic payments at an early opportunity, likely to happen as part of an EU-wide review of the reforms.

One area of concern for the committee, as it has been for much of the industry, is the possible introduction of a national envelope in the beef sector.

The original suggestion from the executive was that a figure of about 10% could be withheld from all beef producers‘ SFP.

The resulting £18m would then be distributed to suckled calf producers.

The aim, the executive said, was to help promote quality beef production and to prevent a decline in cattle numbers in fragile hill areas.

But, in line with the National Beef Association and NFU Scotland, the committee questioned whether a beef national envelope could achieve those aims.

“The committee believes it is a blunt instrument which may not allow sufficient targeting to ensure that support flows to the areas that most need it,” the report said.

It added that it remained unclear whether or not the envelope could be withdrawn once its objectives had been achieved.