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Brexit plan will put an end to ‘slipper farming’

Scottish farmers and crofters could see a move away from area based payments to Active Farmed Hectares (AFH) under plans for a new agricultural policy put forward by NFU Scotland.

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Brexit plan will put an end to ‘slipper farming’

The union can claim with some justification it is one of the few bodies which has a fully worked out post-Brexit plan.

 

Members are being given a chance to hear the details in a series of roadshows touring the country.

 

NFUS head of policy Jonnie Hall told the Perth event this week he was no fan of the Common Agricultural Policy and that, as a taxpayer, the NFUS plan made him feel more comfortable.

 

It would also deliver better targeted support for Scottish farmers and see an end to so-called ‘slipper farming’.

 

The plan was based on AFH rather than being simply area-based.


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Mr Hall said: “It will no longer be just a matter of filling in a form. But the pace of transition will be critical, with no cliff edges, especially for those in the Less Favoured Areas [LFA].”

 

There would be no capping of payments in the NFUS proposals and Pillar one and Pillar two would become a thing of the past.

 

Instead, the level of farm activity would be assessed on a rolling historic basis using cropping and stocking data from the previous three years.

 

There would be proportional top-ups for LFA regions at standard, fragile and very fragile levels and some coupled support.

NFUS vice-president and Farmers Guardian In Your Field writer Martin Kennedy, one of the main architects of the plan, explained the system would see direct farm payments decrease over five years at the same time as opt-in innovation and environmental payment increased.

 

Compulsory environmental measures would stay unchanged as a proportion of the payment package.

 

The objective was to reach a situation where, for example a 250-hectare arable farm, a 250ha mixed farm and a 2,000ha hill farm would all attract similar levels of payment.

What next for NFU Scotland’s Brexit plan?

 

Ian Duncan Millar, chairman of the Moredun Foundation, said he thought the plan was workable but that it would rely on good research funding and an effective advisory service if innovation was to be encouraged.

 

And the plan will of course have to be accepted by Governments.

 

Mr Kennedy said: “There are too many political games being played at the moment but if we had waited for the budget to be settled before we came up with a plan then it would have been too late.”

 

The NFUS plan had clearly been stress tested internally to make sure it worked for the farming industry but there were still huge issues to resolve as to how such a policy would be implemented.

 

NFUS wants Scottish Government to sign up to Westminster’s Agriculture Bill to provide some stability, but Holyrood sources were insisting the farming industry had nothing to fear from a ’Scotland only’ solution.

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