Putting Scotland’s case in CAP reform

CAMPAIGNING to get Scotland’s voice heard during Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform talks has stepped up a gear.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead used a New Year message to underline his commitment to fighting the country’s corner during negotiations on policy changes to be made before the end of next year.

He vowed: “I will ensure our voice is heard loud and clear in the corridors of Whitehall and Brussels. “

Mr Lochhead said Borders farmers are well equipped to cope with the challenges ahead and that there is a mood of optimism in Scottish agriculture, but that this year would be key.

“Agriculture has a vital role to play which is why it’s crucial that we get a fair deal when the Common Agricultural Policy is reformed. That means we need a CAP which is flexible, recognises Scotland’s diverse needs and which supports genuinely active farmers.

“The negotiations in Europe are likely to take some time, but 2012 will be a key year to ensure that we have a CAP that is fit for purpose and delivers support for Scottish farmers – enabling them to continue protecting our iconic countryside and producing the food for which we are world-renowned.”

Meanwhile, Defra (the Whitehall Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) secretary of state Caroline Spelman underlined the importance of the farming, science and food sectors in the UK’s plans for economic recovery at the Oxford Farming Conference last Thursday, a week before her scheduled visit to the Borders.

NFUS vice-president Allan Bowie, who was at the event, said: “Ongoing support at farm level through the CAP will remain central to the wellbeing of most of our farm businesses. That makes it crucial that the chain that links Scottish farmers to the decision-making process on CAP reform in Europe – via the Scottish Government and Defra – is strong.

“It is vital that both our politicians and NFUS are in there fighting for what’s important to Scottish agriculture.

“Mrs Spelman’s views on greening show there is already common ground.

“Many would worry that the Westminster government’s recent use of its veto could isolate the UK in CAP negotiations, but Mrs Spelman also spoke of collaborating and co-operating with other member states to ensure that the European Commission understands what UK farmers need from CAP reform. Her visit to Scotland next week gives us the opportunity to put down a marker on the Scottish industry’s specific requirements from CAP.”

As reported last month, Mrs Spelman will visit NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller’s farm at Stagehall, Stow, today.

An NFU Scotland official said: “The union will use the visit to highlight the importance of securing a CAP reform deal that supports and sustains farming and food production in Scotland.”

In his message, Mr Lochhead also said he was determined to work with the industry “to tackle running sores such as the regulatory burden, as well as some of the other big issues like rising input costs”.