Scottish farm chiefs have ramped up pressure on Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing as part of efforts to strip out ’gold-plating’ from within Scotland’s greening rules.
The union has repeatedly called on Scottish Government to remove a significant number of Scotland-only greening rules which it says place growers at a competitive disadvantage to their counterparts south of the border.
It said this was especially the case around the growing of Nitrogen Fixing Crops (NFC) to meet greening requirements; the use of conversion factors when calculating Ecological Focus Areas (EFA); grazing on buffer strips; management of fallow land and a greater choice of EFA options including forestry and hedges.
NFU Scotland said the requirement for livestock farmers to have a record of intended nitrogen and lime applications to all their fields of permanent grassland was ‘another compliance trip wire’, with no positive environmental outcome.
Mr Ewing heard growers’ concerns first-hand on a visit to a farm run by the union’s combinable crops chairman Ian Sands, near Perth.
Mr Sands said while the Brexit vote would inevitably lead to different arrangements for Scottish agriculture in the future, existing arrangements for direct support through the Common Agricultural Policy will remain in place until at least 2020, and called for a simplification of the rules as soon as possible.
“Given the uncertainty which lies ahead, Scotland’s growers deserve to get the best deal from greening measures and we hope this visit will encourage the Cabinet Secretary to make the most of this opportunity to strip out Scottish Government’s own gold-plating,” said Mr Sands.
“That would make the years ahead where we continue to operate within the CAP more manageable and efficient for our farmers while still delivering meaningful environmental benefits.”