Speaking at this week’s Highland Show, NFUS president Jim McLaren said he broadly welcomed EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel’s proposals, but discussion on certain key issues for Scotland is about to heat up.
“There are certain things within the health check debate that we need to nail down,” he said.
“We are patently aware of the issue that in some parts of Scotland, the loss of sheep and cattle numbers is undermining the social, economic and environmental benefits that livestock farming delivers in these parts.
“The existing Scottish Beef Calf Scheme, which already delivers a coupled payment per beef calf born, has not stemmed that decline.
“With our members, we need to decide if there are better options to sustain cows and sheep in fragile areas, or if the re-coupling elements discussed in the health check proposals should be used.
” If the SBCS is to be retained and strengthened, then we already know that we need to alter the terms of the health check proposal as, at present, they would only allow for half of what is currently spent to be spent in the future.”
Mr McLaren said other aspects of the health check were less contentious.
“We have accepted the timetable for the removal of the milk quota regime by 2015 and we support the proposal for the removal of set-aside. These are shackles introduced at a time when production curbs were required and are no longer relevant.
“Proposals on increasing the compulsory rate of modulation are only acceptable if there is an equivalent reduction in Scotland’s voluntary rate.”
But he warned that plans to apply progressive modulation, taking more from bigger claimants, would meet with opposition.
“We also need to have a meaningful debate with members on new entrants.
“The proposals would allow for a small proportion of existing single farm payments to be top-sliced to create a single farm payment for a new entrant. NFU Scotland believes that investing in the next generation is fundamental to agriculture’s future.”
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