ONE of Scottish agriculture’s key negotiators in CAP reform is in the Borders today to talk about farming and the local economy.
As a member of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee, SNP MEP Alyn Smith is one of those making changes to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy post 2013.
He will tell tonight’s meeting in Kelso: “There is no doubt that reform of the Common Agricultural Policy is needed. There are too many anomalies, too much leakage, and too many loopholes. That is unacceptable. We need to encourage, help and protect those who are producing food.
“The fact that we are going through a reform process is a major opportunity. We need to get things right. We must not simply replace one set of administrative complexities with another.
“We don’t need extra costs for food producers, unfair access rules, misguided incentives, or a blunderbuss policy which aims to work for all of Europe but ends up working for no-one. We need to get this right. Scottish farmers need to be winners in this process – and I will work hard to make sure that they are.”
The MEP will be delivering his lecture in the Cross Keys Hotel at the invitation of the Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce, when he is expected to cover the importance of food production, the CAP and the effect of Scottish independence on the agricultural sector.
He will tell tonight’s gathering: “Food production is critically important to the Borders. This area looks the way it does because of farming – it literally shapes both the landscape and the rural economy.
“Farming is about food production, but it also supports a wider economy. Infrastructure must be developed and maintained and that’s good for the building trades. The natural resources farmers control must be stewarded, which means further jobs and investment. The care and compassion farmers have for their animals, together with the highest welfare standards in the world, support the services of veterinary surgeons. Then there’s feedstuffs, transport, auction marts and much more. It’s not just a business, but an ecosystem.
“That works the other way too, though. If the farmer has less to spend, then that will inevitably impact on the High Street. It’s a vicious circle and one which becomes quite hard to break.”
He will tell farmers he supports attracting new entrants into the industry.
“More can be done to make it attractive to incomers. New blood is vital for our food production and the whole rural economy, but at present, new entrants have to compete for entitlement on a playing field which is far from level. We have to do something about that and look at things like Single Farm Payment eligibility.”
Concerning Scottish independence, he will condemn “rather ridiculous scare stories” that a yes vote would lead to border posts and inconvenience.
“Let me make it absolutely plain right now – this is not going to happen. Scotland’s food producers will be able to transport their animals and themselves without any extra delay or hindrance. Crossing from Scotland to England and back isn’t an issue now, and it won’t be in the future. Suggesting otherwise just makes the people behind the claims look daft.”
The evening starts at 7pm for 7.30pm. Tickets for non-members of the chamber cost £10.
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