Chance to make the CAP fit

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Scotland’s farmers are being presented with another opportunity to help shape the future of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) as the Scottish Government launches its consultation on the EU Commission’s proposals for the policy.

The detailed survey, which is available online or in hard copy, comes hot on the heels of the Government’s CAP Roadshow and NFU Scotland’s own regional and branch AGMs, at which senior NFUS office bearers and staff summarised the proposals and discussed them with members.

A detailed discussion on the CAP proposals will also take place ahead of the union’s AGM on February 13/14.

NFU Scotland’s president, Nigel Miller said: “This online consultation is based upon the EU Commission’s initial proposals for the CAP 2014-2020, that is, it is not a direct consultation on how the next CAP will be implemented in Scotland.

“It is crucial that people feed their views in, however, as the survey broaches the numerous headline subjects which NFUS, our members and our political representatives are currently assessing.

These include the definition agricultural activity, capping of basic direct support, the flexibility to pay different basic support rates in Scotland’s agriculturally diverse regions, payments for young farmers, greening, national reserve, Areas of Natural Constraint, inspections and penalties.

“The survey is very welcome as part of a wide-ranging, going process during which NFUS is constantly speaking to its members and feeding views into the Scottish Government, Defra and the EU institutions.

“It is important to bear in mind that the proposals and the parameters of debate will change over time and that CAP reform is always a very lengthy process which requires great stamina from all that are involved. The survey launched today is therefore part of a live discussion and I would highly recommend that people complete it either online or via the hard copy.

“The survey’s ‘questback’ format, which invites responses based upon a simple selection of criteria ranging means that it can be completed comparatively quickly and easily, although there are options to give more detailed feedback if respondents wish to do so.”

Jim Hume, MSP for the South of Scotland and LibDem spokesperson on rural affairs, welcomed the consultation and urged the farming sector to respond.

He said: “It’s vital that every section of the Scottish farming sector engages with the Scottish Government on this issue.

“All alterations of CAP ultimately will result in re-distribution, so the EU must bear this in mind in their deliberations and ensure that there is a transition period to allow businesses time to change.

“As part of that, if we do not have an agreed CAP for the end of the current arrangement in 2014, then a bridging mechanism must be in place to ensure a smooth transition between any gap in funding.

“At the moment transition could potentially be used until 2019 – five years after proposed new CAP – but if the new CAP is late by a year or two, then enough flexibility should be installed so that the 2019 date is continued further into the future to allow five years of transition at least.”