CAP front-loading payments for beef farmers dismissed

Scottish beef farmers are disappointed that payments under the Beef Calf Scheme will not be front-loaded as originally suggested by the Scottish Government.

As part of the new Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) the European Commission (EC) has ruled out the possibility of front-loading payments for Scottish farmers, which would have seen double the payments on the first 10 calves and lower subsequent payments on remaining calves, reportedly beneficial to smaller producers, crofters and new entrants.

Earlier in the year Owen Paterson, Defra secretary of state, agreed that 13% of Scotland’s agricultural support budget under the next Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) could be coupled – linked to the amount a farm produces rather than paid as a lump sum. It was also suggested beef farmers could benefit from up-front payments for their first 10 calves. However, new European CAP rules stipulate that coupled schemes can only deliver a single payment rate, causing Scotland to operate on two different schemes, which differ for farmers on the Scottish isles to those on the mainland.

Nigel Miller, president of NFU Scotland (NFUS), which has lobbied for more support for farmers in rough grazing areas, said he was disappointed at the ruling. “We successfully campaigned for additional voluntary support for our iconic beef sector and for that support scheme to recognise the additional costs incurred by island producers. That approach has always included the call for payments to be front-loaded – both in the mainland and the island schemes – to the benefit of smaller producers, whether they be crofters, farmers with small beef herds or new entrants.

“The Scottish Government was supportive of such an approach. We were successful in securing additional support for the mainland and island schemes and won the argument on the need for front-loading, only for Scotland’s wishes to be thwarted by EC rules.”

NFUS estimated that, under the two separate schemes, farmers on the mainland will receive €100 per calf while farmers in the island scheme will receive €160 per calf.

“Having met EC officials, it is clear coupled schemes under the new regulation can only deliver a single payment rate. However, by channelling support into a small producers’ scheme and a standard scheme on both the mainland and the islands, enhanced payments can be made on the first 10 calves. The total budget would be unaffected, but we recognise that the creation of four, rather than two, support schemes would add complexity and multiply up the audit levels,” Miller added.

NFUS said it would press for the matter to form part of the mid-term review of the CAP.

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