Friday, 6 June 2008

The future of Europe' s agriculture must fit the purpose for Scotland

With the CAP health check one of the key dossiers sitting on my desk right now I went along this morning to the Commission to be briefed by the Commission officials in the Agriculture Department that wrote the proposals. Given the significance of these proposals for Scotland’s farmers, our crofters and the farming/rural community its important for me to be able to discuss with the Commission officials what their thinking was behind these proposals and to establish how they came to the conclusions they did – and for me then to put these into the specific context of their potential implications for Scotland’s farming sector. Not least because much of the discussion on the side of the European Parliament will go on in the Agriculture Committee, on which Alyn is Scotland’s only full member.

Much of the discussion this morning in DG Agri focused on the Commission’s impact assessment on the health check. For anyone who wants to read their assessment of 158 pages, click here to access it.

Over the next six months there will be much discussion about Europe’s model of agriculture and what I want to ensure is that whatever is finally agreed by EU farming ministers fits the purpose for Scotland’s agricultural sector. The Scottish Government has already announced it is consulting on the Commission’s proposals as is Scotland’s National Farmers Union. At the end of May the Scottish Parliament held its first debate on the health check proposals and adopted the motion below:

That the Parliament, noting the European Commission's legislative proposals for the health check of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform, welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to consult on these proposals, and on the longer-term implementation of CAP in Scotland, in order that agriculture remains a dynamic and competitive industry playing its full part in ensuring the long-term viability of our rural communities and enabling farmers to play their part in achieving the Scottish Government's purpose of sustainable economic growth through food production, high standards of animal welfare and the environmental management of our agricultural land but, in so doing, notes the importance of consulting on the potential impact of progressive modulation on Scottish farms and affirms that any increases in European Union-wide modulation should be matched by a corresponding deduction in levels of voluntary modulation; considers that any increase in compulsory modulation must be offset by a corresponding reduction in voluntary modulation to ensure that Scottish producers are not put at a competitive disadvantage within the European Union; further considers that Scotland, with its high proportion of large farm units, must not be disadvantaged by proposals for progressive modulation or capping; believes that, in light of rapidly escalating food and fuel costs, the Scottish Rural Development Programme should be reviewed, with the production of food and food security considered as a key priority, and recognises the correlation between economic activity on the ground and delivery of environmental benefits for all".

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