CAP plans divide Scotland for farm support payments

Scotland will be split into two regions for the purposes of farm support under CAP reform implementation plans unveiled by the Scottish government.

Farmers are being urged to have their say on how payments should be distributed over the next seven years. The consultation includes plans for two payment regions based on land type – one for arable land and permanent grassland and the other for rough grazing.

Splitting Scotland into two aims to support agriculture and the environment. Rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead said: “My vision for Scottish agriculture is for our nation to produce quality food, with farmers able to compete in worldwide markets while our natural environment is protected.”

Other proposals include using Scotland’s national reserve to ensure new entrants – currently excluded from direct payments – qualify for support from day one of the new CAP, which comes into force from January 2015.

Full area-based payments will be phased in over the duration of the next CAP period, which runs until 2020. During this time, 8% of the national ceiling will be used as coupled support for the beef sector, to help it adjust to the move to area-based payments.

Launching the consultation, Mr Lochhead said the overriding goal was to “strike the right balance” between flexibility and simplicity. “We absolutely must maintain the capacity to produce food as a nation and we absolutely must look after our environment,” he added.

Mr Lochhead said: “We will need to give careful thought to how we structure the total package of support that will be available to farmers, with a number of new payments set to replace the current single farm payment and the move from historic payments to area-based payments.”

The consultation also contains plans for a more flexible approach to greening – the requirement that farmers must implement environmental measures in return for support payments. Farmers would be allowed to implement standard measures or choose alternatives that deliver an equivalent benefit.

Mr Lochhead said it was important to pay heed to complexity and compliance costs when considering the new approach. “We must guard against increasing the level of red tape and bureaucracy – I can’t overestimate how important it is that we achieve that balance,” he said.

“A new policy that tries to deliver a tailored solution to every circumstance in our diverse agriculture sector and geography might be tempting but it would be a recipe for chaos and obviously we all want to avoid that.”

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