Scots sheep farmers want their three bags full
THE concept of extra support for any sector of the farming industry at the expense of the majority of producers was always going to be a difficult issue, but one that many have warned that NFU Scotland and the Scottish Government would at some time have to address.
Following the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy in 2003 and the implementation of the most radical changes in its 40 year history, virtually all support for producers became “decoupled” from production.
No longer would the level of support be directly related to numbers of livestock or acres of crops. However, one obvious outcome was that farmers could reduce their output but still be entitled to receive the new single farm payment.
That is precisely what has happened with the beef breeding herd quickly losing over 60,000 cows compared to a decade ago.
But the most noticeable decline in production has been seen in the sheep sector. As of December last year, the Scottish breeding flock numbered 3.03 million animals, well below the 4.3 million ewes recorded in the official census of 1998.
Beef production is the core industry of rural Scotland and was worth in the region o air max f 500 million last year, net of subsidies. But the devil is in the detail: last year the output of finished cattle was estimated at 466m, only 6m more than the 1998 total.
The Scottish Government decided three years ago to introduce a “beef calf scheme” that provided producers with a payment of around 95 on the first ten calves and 47.50 on all subsequent animals reared.
The funding was derived from “top slicing” 10 per cent of all previous support for beef producers. The consensus is that this has been a sensible move.
As lamb production continues to decline, sheep producers have been pressing for a similar arrangement.
George Milne, the development officer with the Scottis air max h region of the National Sheep Association, said: “What we need is a substantial payment for everyone with breeding ewes.”
This clearly would involve a further degree of “top slicing”, something that NFUS has been reluctant to countenance. A meeting between NFUS and industry stakeholders on Tuesday is understood to have seen some frank exchanges of opinion.
Article 68 of the CAP is seen by many as the means through which support could be more effectively directed toward air max s farmers and producers who actually rear sheep and cattle
The fine details of Article 68 are hugely complex, but the bottom line is that while there is no new money available, it is open to individual EU member states and devolved regions to exercise a greater degree of discretion in the allocation of funds. The Scottish Government has the better end of 400 million available for rural support.
Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet secretary for rural affairs, recently launched a consultation paper on last year’s “health check” of the CAP. Changes in the designation and eligibility for support will be controversial.
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