‘Tough’ CAP package a compromise say locals

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Local reaction to the new CAP package for 2015-2020 announced last week is that it’s about as good as could be expected given the circumstances.

New rules aim to ensure only active farmers will get direct payments. The country has been split into three regions, there will be coupled support for the hill sheep and beef sectors and basic direct farm payments will be capped at around £400,000 per year after labour costs.

There will be a five-year transition from 2015 to 2019 to change from historic to area-based farm payments. New entrants will get the regional average. And there will be a new £45million three-year beef improvement scheme, in addition to the retained eight per cent coupled support scheme for beef.

Announcing details last Wednesday, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said it would also be “a greener CAP, with farmers being rewarded with Pillar 1 top-up payments for taking action to protect biodiversity and reduce emissions”. And he confirmed development funding is to increase by more than £10million per year.

NFU Scotland vice-president and former livestock committee chairman, Rob Livesey of Firth, Lilliesleaf, told us: “Under the circumstances and given the limited budget, it’s the best deal we could have got.

“Borders farmers will be relieved that they know a bit more about where they are going. It’s been going on for a long, long time. We have got a compromise: those people locked out of entitlement are going to get money, but that’s at a cost to every other farmer receiving payment.

“We’ve got extra Pillar 2 money for cattle, which is going to be useful. And at least we have got a four-year transition period instead of a sudden change.

“It will by no means be perfect for everybody, but it’s a pretty reasonable compromise within the constraints the Government faced.”

NFU Scotland combinable crops committee member, Neil White of Greenknowe, Swinton, said: “The combinable crop sector can only hope that there are some SRDP pillar 2 options accessible to us as our basic payment is low and the coupled money doesn’t look like it will ever be available to us.

“The gradual introduction of the new rate will help some farms who are facing a considerable drop in their basic payment and will give them some time to adjust.

“The detail on greening and ecological focus areas (EFA) is crucial now, but it does look like NFUS may have had some success in shaping some of the eligible criteria. Personally, I will always have a moral problem with leaving good land producing nothing, and the more choices we have in the EFA criteria the better for all.

“The new entrant scheme and funding for genuine new farmers can only be good as new ideas and enthusiasm into the industry are always necessary.”

Union president Nigel Miller, Stow livestock farmer, said: “This was always going to be a tough package.

“For established businesses, the reality is, many face a steep reduction in support levels. For new entrants and developers, we welcome that they will be brought immediately into the support system.”