NFUS president in Brussels dash for coupling talks

Scottish farm leaders have held urgent talks in Brussels after agriculture commissioner Dacian Ciolos announced Scotland would not be granted an increased rate of coupled support under CAP reforms.

In the new CAP arrangements, the EU has set a coupled payment rate of 8% for each member state to help those farms in fragile areas. But the Scots had hoped they would be given a higher rate of 13% because England did not take up its full allowance. That hope was dashed by the commissioner in an announcement last week (see News, 4 April).

With time running out to finalise CAP implementation plans, NFUS president Nigel Miller travelled to Brussels on Tuesday 8 April to discuss potential solutions that would make best use of the pot of funding available to those who farm in Scotland’s rough grazing region (RGR).

After two days of meetings, Mr Miller said it was imperative for progress to be made before Europe shut down for Easter and pledged to provide officials with a briefing to move the debate along.

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“The coupling announcement left Scotland without the necessary targeting options to provide appropriate levels of support to Scottish farmers in fragile areas using the pot of funding allocated to our RGR,” Mr Miller said.

“These quickly arranged meetings were an opportunity to highlight the real challenge of delivering an area payment in hill land where the proposed system will create some big winners but could also devastate some flocks where grazing intensity is higher.

“We mapped out those scenarios and demonstrated that there are a range of flock densities and holding sizes that would be severely impacted by this single area payment approach,” he said.

“While we are still some way from identifying a solution to that issue, commission officials are now far clearer on the huge problem we face in delivering support to our producers in the RGR and why we need a more targeted approach if we are to make best use of funds.”

Meanwhile the Scottish government’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead is still waiting to hear if his request for a meeting with commissioner Ciolos has been approved.

“Discussions are still ongoing,” a spokesman said.

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