Hope of subsidy rules revision

fARMING leaders want to set up a new self-governing system to check producers are obeying the rules on subsidies.

NFU Scotland says farmers can be clobbered for minor mistakes under the current inspection rules and argues a new regime – in line with European Commission standards but regulated by the industry – could create a win-win situation.

Union president, Stow farmer Nigel Miller said: “The current inspection and penalty regime around schemes such as Single Farm Payment and Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme generates significant fear because relatively minor breaches can result in draconian penalties that can undermine whole farm businesses.

“The proposed reform of the CAP gives us the opportunity to identify an inspection regime that is fit for purpose.”

The union has held discussions with the EC and suggests accredited self-regulation would allow farmers to break out from the present system.

A union spokesperson said: “It is suggested that a new audit body could offer a pre-inspection visit system that could ensure all systems were compliant before the official annual audit took place.

“Involvement in a new scheme would be voluntary and farmers not wanting to take part could remain with the current cross-compliance arrangements.”

Mr Miller said: “Discussions are at a very early stage but Europe appears to have an open mind on a system that could improve general compliance. At the same time, member states could reduce inspection levels, cut the burden on the appeals procedure and lower the potential for failing any EU audit.”