Pack to put his case to Borders farmers

Sheep Feeding
Sheep Feeding

BRIAN Pack will be speaking in the Borders on the future of the CAP.

The agribusinessman will line up with Clydesdale Bank and Rural Payments and Inspections Directorate (RPID) representatives to talk about how the changes to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) will affect local businesses.

The organiser of the event, Scottish Borders Chamber of Commerce manager Sally Scott-Aiton said: “The policy will affect all strands of farming business and it is important to understand the ramifications.”

Europe’s CAP will change in 2013 and in November Mr Pack, commissioned by the Scottish Government, put forward his suggestions as to how agriculture should be supported in Scotland in the future.

He suggests the 85 per cent of Scotland that is Less Favoured Area (LFA) should get area-based, headage and top-up payments The top-up money would be to help farmers tackle food security, climate change, biodiversity and water and energy supply issues and should be based on standard labour requirements (statistics based on farming activity) he says.

Farmers on the remaining non-LFA better ground should get area-based and top up payments based on area.

Mr Pack said: “Scottish agriculture needs the direct payment because the average farm income is less than the average support payment: as an industry it is very dependant on support.”

But he said: “Farmers have to do more for the public money they get and the argument is they should look to grow a more sustainable farming industry and one that delivers for the public good.”

Borders farmers are wary about tampering with the current Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) which they say is targeted and works as it is.

Mr Pack said: “The main recommendation is not dependent on LFASS being done away with, that’s optional.”

But he continued: “There’s a clear argument LFASS is now like a direct payment, there is very little agri-environment activity in it.”

“It’s how farmers deliver on the global challenges which is so important, “ he said, adding he was surprised the issue had not come up more in discussion with farmers.

One suggestion, taking numbers of livestock each year and using that to develop a payment, “just wouldn’t fly” he said.

“If one could dream up what one thought was good, that’s quite different from what we had to do which was consider where Europe was moving and try to shape that a bit.

“Having a top-up fund based on standard labour requirements is quite new and different. It might or might not fly but there is a strong argument for where it is linked to delivering public good and not just to production.”

Global challenges are an issue agriculture has to tackle and that would happen, whether through subsidies or regulation, he said.

“When you go for regulation, you set the maximum standard as well as the minimum. Introducing hoops and penalties would be unfortunate – that’s why I would be really keen to see top up funds working: if you (the farmer) are committed to delivering against global challenges you get the top-up fund. That way we can believe the industry is heading in the right direction. It’s quite important for agriculture that it moves in the right direction, for itself.”

Also speaking will be Clydesdale Bank’s agribusiness development managing partner Iain Clark and RIPD principal agricultural officer in the region, Ian Davidson.

The free 90-minute seminar starts at 6.30pm at the Ednam House Hotel on Wednesday (January 12). Earlier this week 100 of the 150 seats had gone. More information from sally.scottaiton@borderschamber.org.uk