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Farm subsidy inquiry visits Shetland

THE BRIAN Pack inquiry into the future of agricultural subsidies is coming to Shetland next month to consult on their interim report, which was published yesterday (Thursday).

The report drew on lengthy submissions from the industry about how support for the industry should look after 2013, once the Common Agricultural Policy has been reformed.

The interim report recommends four strands of support in Scotland – direct payments, a top-up fund, rural development programme funding and Less Favoured Area (LFA) support.

It argues that direct payments should be made area by area, rather than on a historic basis. The move would involve considerable financial redistribution, hitting intensive livestock farms hardest.

The concept of top-up funding is new and would need to be argued for in CAP negotiations, but if it went ahead could “achieve transformational change to increase farming’s efficiency and sustainability”. Mr Pack recommends the top up payment be about 50 per cent of the direct area payment.

In the short term the report recommends no change to the current Single Farm Payment (SFP) system “robust administration systems” are developed for the changeover post-2013.

The report also tried to address how to stop non-producers from accessing subsidies and for reversing the decline in breeding cows and ewes.

Mr Pack and his inquiry team will travel the country to hear people’s views on his proposals and says they are likely to have a significant impact on the final report.

“These meetings will give me the opportunity to explain the thinking that has gone into the interim report and to listen to the views of individual farmers and industry organisations,” he said.

“Those views will play an important part in shaping the final outcome of the inquiry and I would encourage as many people as possible to get along to their local meeting.”

The Shetland meeting takes place at the Clickimin Leisure Complex on 11 February.

A copy of the full interim report is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/BrianPackInquiry, which also hosts a consultation questionnaire.

NFU Scotland president Jim McLaren said: “The model discussed in the report of an area-based payment with a top-up fund fits well with our own recommendations to the inquiry.

“A base payment focussed on productivity, but with other funds directly connected
to achieving specific outcomes makes the case very clearly to the taxpayer for ongoing support.”

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead added: “The interim report is a well-thought out and well-presented report which sets out some key issues for further consultation and I have no doubt that this report will stimulate fascinating debate on the future of Scottish agricultural support.”

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