NFU Scotland has repeated its position that Scotland’s farm funding shortfall of almost £190 million must be addressed in the current Review of Intra-UK Allocation of Domestic Farm Funding, being led by Lord Bew.
The original decision on the distribution of additional EU farm funding was taken by the UK Government in 2013 and, since then, NFU Scotland has repeatedly called for, and received pledges from successive DEFRA ministers, that the decision would be subject to review.
The process is finally under way and the Union has responded to Lord Bew’s Independent Review. It has copied its response to Scottish Government’s representative on the review panel, former NFUS President Jim Walker.
The long-standing view of NFU Scotland is that it was exclusively as a result of Scotland’s low payment rate per hectare (approx. €130 per hectare) that the UK was awarded the convergence uplift in 2013 as part of the reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The clear reason why the UK has received this dividend is directly linked to Scotland’s below average area payment rates – about 45 per cent of the EU average – and consequently, the UK will receive an extra €223 million (or about £190 million) over the period 2014 to 2020.
The UK Government chose to share this dividend across the whole of the UK based on historic allocations, a decision NFUS believes was fundamentally flawed.
The stated objective of the Review is to “look at what factors should be taken into account to ensure an equitable intra-UK allocation of domestic farm support funding”.
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “To maintain Scotland’s vital capacity to produce food; to deliver the growth potential of the Scottish food and drink sector; and to protect the industry against the risks of Brexit while seeking to maximise the opportunities that might arise; the convergence dividend issue must be fairly resolved.
“There remains no objective or rational justification for historic allocations – either now, or between 2020 and 2022, or beyond 2022 – and such an approach remains completely at odds with the European Commission’s rationale for the uplift.
“Notwithstanding the final outcomes of the most recent extension to the Article 50 process, possibly to 31 October 2019, the UK will continue to be effectively governed by EU rules and regulations and be a participant in CAP schemes, until well into the period 2020 to 2022 to be covered by the Review.
“As a result, NFU Scotland is adamant that the UK’s CAP budget convergence dividend issue must be resolved fairly, by using objective and non-discriminatory criteria, to ensure a fair intra-UK allocation of agricultural funding to 2022.
“The Review of Intra-UK Allocation of Domestic Farm Funding is not simply about the CAP convergence funds and their allocation. It is also about setting a fair and objective precedent for the future.
“Post-Brexit, a UK agricultural budget will be needed to replace the previous CAP allocation from the EU to the UK. NFU Scotland continues to pursue a clear commitment from the UK Government for a future ring-fenced, multi-annual agricultural budget. This Review has the capacity to firmly establish a fair and objective basis for the allocation of such a budget across all four devolved administrations.”