How you see greening

z TheSouthern asked three local farmers for their thoughts on the “greening” proposals.

Known mostly as a successful beef producer, Robert Neill’s Upper Nisbet farm near Jedburgh is an arable monitor farm in the Scottish Government-funded, SAC-run Farming for a Better Climate Initiative.

A past Farmers Weekly Beef Farmer of the Year, Mr Neill said: “My main concern is the permanent pasture ruling which would mean that we could no longer re-seed permanent pasture. This would have a huge impact on Scottish farmers who have a large area of land under permanent pasture which needs to be renewed to make it productive.

“The three-crop ruling is not going to affect us because we have enough crops in our rotation. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this and this will affect arable farmers who are predominantly growing cereals without any break crops.

“Europe is trying to get one system to fit 27 states which seems unrealistic considering the diversity of farming practices throughout the EU. What the Scottish Government should be concerned with is obtaining as large amount of money as possible to then be able to distribute it using a fair system that matches our agricultural needs.

“From our personal point of view, we would like to see subsidies in the beef sector that encourage growth in this sector and secure a future for an ever-dwindling industry. Beef production involves a longer term investment than many other livestock sectors, and growing pressure from increased costs and fewer markets have forced many farmers to diversify away from beef.

“It always goes without saying that only farmers who are productive should receive any monetary support.”

Specialist magazine Scottish Farmer columnist, noted Aberdeen Angus breeder and last year’s winner of the Borders Crop and Grassland Management competition, John Elliot, of Roxburgh Mains, Kelso, said: “I’m a bit cynical. They say they’re going to reduce the red tape, but it looks like there’s going to be a lot more and a lot less money.

“But it’s like arguing against goodness. There are a lot of things you should do, but sometimes they are not what would be beneficial or sensible and are against what practical people would do. You learn about things then suddenly find something you’ve done for years is no longer allowed, so you find a way round it.”

He is concerned about the permanent grassland proposal: “It seems an area that’s been in grass for more than five years becomes classed as permanent pasture and you can’t put it back into anything else.

“I’m not enthusiastic. It is not democracy. I suppose we’ll end up getting things imposed on us that will make us poorer and add to our workload.”

CAP reform was one of the topics being discussed at an open day of Quality Meat Scotland arable monitor farm Whitsome East Newton, near Duns, on Tuesday.

Farmer Alistair Hodge told us: “The proposals for 30 per cent greening payment need to be targeted at environmental improvements, but not at the expense of food production as food security is becoming ever more important as the world population is ever increasing and needs to be fed.

“The regulations need to be applied in a way that won’t tie the industry up in red tape, as everything that I have read so far suggests more complicated rules and time filling out forms and records, so heaping ever more expense on the industry for little benefit.”