STFA have urged Scottish Government to ensure the new CAP regime is based on support mechanisms targeting those actively contributing to Scottish agriculture.  Following a meeting with Scottish Government officials, STFA are hugely concerned to learn that a number of vitally important issues remain unresolved with only weeks to go until CAP proposals must be announced and submitted to the European Commission.

In particular STFA, along with NFUS, view the government’s intention to abandon the use of 2013 as the reference year as deeply detrimental for the tenanted sector.  A historic based eligibility criteria is essential to halt the land grab taking place as landlords seek to benefit from additional support by ceasing letting arrangements. and to ensure support is only available those who are actively farming the land.  STFA would also agree with NFU Scotland that Scottish Government must make use of the ‘negative list’ and other criteria as further means of ensuring support is targeted at active farmers.

A decision on the architecture of the new scheme is expected in June and final details are still unclear, leaving farmers in a position of great uncertainty.  The CAP consultation and wider discussion with stakeholders have identified an issue with targeting support within the rough grazing region (RGR), with a wide diversity of land type and activity making a single payment rate impossible.  STFA has urged Scottish Government to consider a split within the RGR category or a coupled support payment for the sheep sector as a means of overcoming the issue.  STFA does not believe the recently introduced  ‘French model’ of regional redistributive payments, front loading payments on the first 54Ha, will effectively address the issue of targeting support within the RGR.

Speaking on these issues Christopher Nicolson, STFA Chairman said:

“STFA remain firmly opposed to a move away from using the farmed area in 2013 as a reference point for allocating area based entitlements in 2015.  The consequence of Scottish Governments reluctance to confirm 2013 as the reference year is already being felt, with many tenants losing land as landlords take land back in hand in a bid to benefit from the new scheme.  The evidence shows that much damage has already been done over the last few years as landlords and their agents manoeuvre to repossess land.  This gives STFA huge concern over the future of let land in Scotland.

“Much of the work of the Agricultural Holdings legislation Review Group looking at ways of reinvigorating the tenanted sector will now be put in jeopardy unless the ability fpr landlords to take land back in hand is not  restricted.  As Scotland contemplates what will be the biggest reform to its tenanted sector since 1948 it is vitally important the CAP reform helps rather than hinders this process

“We appreciate the wish of government to simplify the administration of payments but this must not take place at the expense of the objectives and desired outcomes of the new support scheme.  It surely must be imperative that we support activity and profitable agriculture which lies is at the heart of Scotland’s ambitious food and drink strategy.”