NFU Scotland and NSA Scotland have welcomed the increased headroom on Scotland’s coupled budget, as negotiated with Defra and the European Commission, as a game changing development.
The organisations believe an additional five percent of coupled support, on top of the eight percent coupled budget previously discussed, would be a powerful targeting tool that could transform the 2015 CAP support package in Scotland.
The rough grazing area (RGR) of Scotland is the largest farming region but the most vulnerable. The hills underpin the livestock sector, biodiversity, landscapes and communities.
The single band of area support proposed within the RGR region, could see support stripped away from productive hill farms while also overcompensating areas of hill grazings where stocking rates are as low as a ewe on four or five hectares or less.
Both NSA Scotland and NFU Scotland believe that five percent coupling could be a lifeline for hill farming. With a significant additional coupled budget available, this targeting option must be taken up and used to ensure support is focused on activity within the hill and RGR areas. It is important that ewes within this disadvantaged area are underpinned by a package of support close to or above €30 per ewe.
Defining eligible farms or flocks and designing a simple delivery mechanism are now priority workstreams for both organisations. The Scottish Government also has a key role in facilitating development and modelling of possible coupling options.
Reaching the right livestock with appropriate support levels is crucial. However, avoiding a heavy compliance burden being associated with the delivery of support is also a priority.
NFU Scotland has also used an evidence session in the Scottish Parliament to lay out the many challenges faced by Scottish Government in delivering a new area-based support scheme to Scottish agriculture.
In particular, it has welcomed recent announcements that may deliver greater flexibility around targeting support and the introduction of measures that should ensure precious funds are preserved for those actively contributing to the farming and food sectors.