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Scottish Farming Leaders in Talks with Minister Ahead of CAP Crunch Time

14 June 2013

UK - Ahead of CAP talks reaching their climax in the next few weeks, NFU Scotland's President, Nigel Miller and staff have met with Defra minister, Owen Paterson and his advisors to reiterate Scotland's priorities which have yet to be addressed in concluding discussions between the EU Commission, EU Parliament and Member State governments via the EU Council.

While significant improvements and concessions have been gained in some areas, and others expected to be addressed when implementation rules are agreed this autumn, there still remain deep concerns about some aspects of greening and the option to use coupled support in order to help stop the decline in Scotland's livestock sector.

NFUS officials also took the opportunity to discuss UK issues, especially ways of resolving the loss of red meat levy for livestock born and reared in Scotland but slaughtered in England, which is costing Scotland around £500,000 per annum and has been exacerbated by the loss of pig processing capacity at Broxburn following Vion's retraction from the UK.

Speaking after the meeting, NFUS President, Nigel Miller said: "EU CAP discussions are reaching crunch time, and tough decisions will have to be made as EU institutions and member states horse trade in order to retain their priorities. The Minister still believes that a decision will soon be made in Luxembourg by the Irish Presidency, which is what we would have hoped.

"Less good, however, is the news that the flexibility we so desperately seek for our arable farmers has still not been achieved, so we impressed emphatically on Mr Paterson the need to ensure that our limited arable acres will not be devalued by an inappropriate EU straitjacket.

"We re-emphasised the importance of targeting coupled support to producers hit hardest by the move to an area-based payment system. The Minister had been in front of the Scottish Parliament's rural affairs committee in the morning where MSPs questioned him about delivering a fair share of the UK budget to Scotland, bearing in mind the EU Commission's aim of paying a uniform rate of 196 euros per hectare by 2020.

"Defra is now fully aware of the importance to Scotland of giving support only to active farmers and the need for adequate mapping systems to ensure we can regionalise our area payments.

"CAP aside, we cannot ignore the issue of Scotland losing red meat levy money as livestock that have been born and raised here are slaughtered south of the border. We should, at least negotiate an interim solution so that research capability and promotional activity are not impaired.

"There is real scope for the UK to get ahead of the game in improving our livestock databases so that in addition to basic traceability formation we can capture food chain information that carries disease and meat quality data too.

"The levy issues emphasised movements increased of livestock from Scotland to other parts of UK and potential to improve livestock databases so that they carry not only basic traceability information but can also be used as to capture and report food chain information, which would cover disease and meat quality issues. This approach is already being developed successfully in the Republic of Ireland and is something we must pursue if we are to remain competitive in the global marketplace.

"We shall reconvene with Mr Paterson and his agriculture minister, David Heath at the Highland Show, and continue our close and frequent contact with Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead and his staff too; however, as CAP negotiations evolve almost by the day, every opportunity to discuss our impress our key issues face to face is invaluable."

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