The allocation of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments to Scotland’s farmers and crofters should be distributed more fairly and additional support is needed for hill farmers according to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee.
In a letter to the Scottish Government on the issue, the Committee has called for the establishment of three payments regions in Scotland, if an increase in coupled payments targeted at hill farmers is not possible, in order to ensure that farming continues to be sustainable in the most challenging parts of the country.
The Committee also heard concerns that the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) may not be achieving the desired outcomes and is recommending that the transition to an Area of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme takes place as soon as possible.
The letter stresses the need for farming and crofting to become greener and more sustainable and recommends that a simple carbon audit be carried out by every farmer and crofter in receipt of CAP funding within this period of the policy.
The Committee also recommends to the Scottish Government that it retains the current Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme for crofts only and considers a separate Scotland wide small farm scheme. MSPs are also recommending that the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grants Scheme budget is kept at least at the current level and welcomes a new appropriate budget for the small farms support scheme.
The Committee is also calling on the UK Government’s review of the allocation of CAP funding across the UK to be independently led, take place by 2017 and for any changes agreed to be implemented before 2020 where practicable.
Convener of the Committee Rob Gibson MSP said: “How the Common Agricultural Policy is implemented in Scotland is one of the most important decisions for the agricultural industry in recent times. The decisions taken will not only affect farmers and crofters but will have a profound impact environmentally and socially as well.
“There is no doubt that the Scottish Government has some difficult decisions to make and the policy needs to be considered as a total package of support, particularly as change results in some winners and some losers and this needs to be managed carefully. That is why our Committee is making it clear that payments need to be distributed as fairly as possible to ensure that this reformed CAP delivers for all our farmers and crofters, whichever part of the country they are in.
“There is an onus on the industry too and we are calling on farmers and crofters receiving CAP funding to embrace a greener future – we must have an industry that is sustainable economically, environmentally and socially.”