Alyn Asks Scotland On Capping Farm Payments

21 October 2011
Alyn Smith has digested the recent proposals for the reform of EU farm payments policy and has launched an online consultation for the farmers and growers of Scotland to tell him what they think of the idea to cap farm payments.
The consultation is live on www.alynsmith.eu and will run until 30 November.

Alyn opposes capping on principle, on the basis that if we reform the support schemes properly then if a Single Farm Payment (SFP) is big, then it means that the recipient is doing a lot of farming, producing a lot of food and employing a lot of people. However, this is increasingly a minority view in Brussels, with Member States looking to claw back budget, and the European Commission has proposed that SFPs be capped at 300,000 euro. Capping is not inevitable given that nothing in Brussels ever is, but it does look increasingly likely.

Alyn can continue to oppose, and risk being in a King Canute type minority, or can be more flexible and influence the discussions in our direction. He has launched a 6 week consultation to ask the views of Scotland's rural folk what they can live with, to inform his work on the Agriculture Committee as the negotiations move forward.
 
Alyn said:
 
"This is an unusual step, but a genuine one. I need a steer on this, and I think it right that I put the question as far and wide as I can. I will take the responses seriously and they will influence my view.
 
"This proposal has the potential to pit farmer against farmer, and we saw the rammy that took place over the allocation of Article 68 funds a few years back. I want to, as far as I can, ensure that we have done some hard thinking up front about what we can live with as a Plan B.
 
"I like to think I'm more accessible than most, but the fact is too many people think politics happens far away and they can't do anything to influence it. That is not, in fact, the case, but on this one I'm specifically inviting thoughts because I'll have to make a call and I want to get it right for the greatest number of people possible and in the best interests of Scottish farming and rural communities.
 
"For example, the capping proposal as it stands says that any money 'saved' should just go back to the European Commission. I'll oppose that one right enough, but what if the funds saved went to a Scottish National Reserve to create new schemes to benefit the industry as a whole rather than individual farmers? It is an open question, and I need a steer."