Scottish farmers have been warned that they face a “brutal” first step to transition to area payments in 2015 rather than the soft landing they were originally promised.
NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller told a seminar at the Agriscot winter fair in Ingliston that they faced “less of a transition and more a cliff face”.
The event was attended by hundreds of farmers and watched by the Scottish government’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead.
Mr Miller said the consequences of budget cuts, the introduction of standard greening and a 10-20% movement in transition in year one of the CAP made for a severe scenario.
He said: “I’m not sure if there’s room for manoeuvre at this stage. If there’s not a better model, then sure as hell the government has to get out there and tell people what they’re facing because this is something that banks and business plans will have to bring us through. At the moment people haven’t appreciated how brutal the process is going to be.”
Scotland, Wales and the Netherlands are the only three countries to opt for a five-year transition process, and Mr Miller claimed that while the original proposals had looked attractive, it was clear that the majority of producers would now get no benefit from this staged transition.
He cited the example of a beef farmer in Mr Lochhead’s Moray constituency who, he said, was projected to lose 30% of his Pillar 1 payments in 2015.
“That’s a fair chunk of money. If you employ someone, can you afford to continue? It certainly means not buying machinery or making any investment so secondary industries will take an immediate hit. That’s not what we thought of as a soft landing,” he said.
“Maybe now is a time to reflect on that five-stage process we’re currently engaging in. Wales claims to have a smoother process with their five steps.“
Mr Lochhead said he was confident the Scottish government had made the best use of resources in the face of an appalling budget.