Feedback is being sought from farmers following the release of an interim Scottish government report surrounding the future of industry support beyond 2013, when the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is scheduled for major reform.
The Clickimin Centre in Lerwick will play host to a public consultation meeting on 11th February at 7.30pm on the findings so far from the inquiry into agriculture led by Brian Pack. The meeting is just one in a long line of consultation exercises scheduled to take place across the country.
The interim findings published on Thursday recommend agricultural support should come from four strands – direct payments, a top-up fund, funding from the rural development programme and Less Favoured Area (LFA) support.
The report argues for the need for direct support to agriculture to ensure the industry can continue to meet the demands placed upon it, highlighting the industry’s strategic importance to the country.
It claims the country’s food and drink supply would be left vulnerable without direct support, and says the need for Europe to recognise that by protecting agricultural spending through CAP is key.
Perhaps one of the more interesting aspects of the report is the concept of a top-up fund financed directly by money from the direct payment budget mentioned above. The concept is new and would need to be argued for in the CAP reform negotiations if Scotland wished to adopt it.
It is hoped the fund could help achieve what the report calls “transformational change” to help increase farming’s efficiency and sustainability. Mr Pack said it was important the issues were discussed in an open forum.
“I will be taking part in extensive public consultations and gathering additional evidence on the various issues flagged up in the report which my committee and I can consider,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
Any feedback gathered will help inform the final report, which is scheduled for release in June 2010. Meanwhile, a copy of the full interim report is available at www.scotland.gov.uk/BrianPackInquiry, which also hosts a consultation questionnaire.
The initial findings by Mr Pack have already been described as “an excellent start” by industry leaders.
NFUS president Jim McLaren said: “The document achieves its primary aim of stimulating discussion throughout our industry on how we want crucial funding to be delivered following the forthcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy.
“Discussions on the shape of the CAP post-2013 are already underway and we welcome the report’s assertion that there should be no major change in policy until we know the direction in which the rest of the EU is travelling.”