Smith Voices LFA Budget Fears

01 September 2009
In the first meeting of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee since the return of MEPs after recess, SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today (Tuesday) questioned Europe's Agriculture Commissioner over LFA proposals and expressed his fear that abuse of LFA by other member states could mean Scotland losing out.

In a packed session in Brussels, Smith asked Commissioner Fischer Boel to guarantee that reforming the LFA criteria will not impact upon the overall budget set aside to support Europe's less-favoured areas and that genuine LFA areas will continue to be supported. In a logjam of responses at the end of the meeting the Commissioner was unable to give a satisfactory reply and Smith has since followed up his question in writing. Scotland's total LFA budget is worth some GBP 61,000,000 each year.

Smith said:

"Commissioner I would like to emphasise my Group's support of your comments on LFA, and LFA reform. Coming from Scotland where 85% of my country is LFA, we keep a close eye on this dossier and I would like to debunk some of the nonsense we have heard from some quarters on why LFA reform is on the agenda at all. We need to be honest that some member states have been abusing LFA, there have been some outrageous abuses of both the spirit and the letter of the regulations that have seen lush rolling countryside of Luxembourg classed in the same category as Caithness or the Western Isles in Scotland.

"This abuse has brought LFA into some disrepute, and the Court of Auditors have, quite rightly, demanded that the package be tightened up and I would assure you of my Group's support for the reform effort, as done right Scotland has everything to play for and nothing to lose.

"But my concern is wider. As we come to debate new criteria, and we are only at the start of that process in Parliament, I'm concerned that our discussions could be made redundant because the budget is slashed and the pot we're squabbling over becomes a thimble. Can you assure me that this is not going to be the case?"