SNP Member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee Alyn Smith has welcomed the approval by the Committee of the long-awaited Common Agricultural Policy reform package.
The agreement is significant, in that it sets the broad shape of the future CAP across the EU until 2020, but is not yet the end of the story. A number of key points, especially those linked to the ongoing discussions over the EU budget, remain undecided, and the Parliament as a whole will not sign off on the deal until September. It is likely, though, that today's package will be the broad shape of the CAP structure.
"Goodness me, this has been a long time coming but, on balance, I can recommend this package to the people of Scotland.
"There are parts I like more than others, and I still despair at the conscious choice of the UK government to sacrifice farming in favour of the UK rebate, but we will do what we can to fight rural Scotland's corner. The numbers are far from final, but it is quite clear that the UK government has chosen to deliver a very poor outcome in financial terms compared to other Member States who value farming. There is no doubt in my mind that Scotland could have won a better budget deal.
"However, there are grounds to be positive. On Rural Development - the dossier I have been closest to as Shadow Rapporteur for my group - I'm considerably more enthusiastic. We have opened the door to EU funding for a number of new activities which will encourage more co-operation amongst producers, shorter supply chains, local quality marks and many other innovations. The LEADER principles are expanded and protected, and available to build on.
"I'm especially pleased, also, that we have delivered for New Entrants and Young Farmers, as well as bringing to an abrupt end the scandal of slipper farmers receiving public money. While land reform remains on the political agenda in Scotland, my job is to make the CAP fit Scotland's current reality to best suit our rural communities, and I think we have a achieved a decent result.
"There are, of course, issues that will need to be carefully implemented to best fit our farming, but I do think there is flexibility in the package, and I will be paying close attention to the implementation of it. The rules on crop diversification in particular, in the Direct Payments dossier, may well cause some of our producers problems I had hoped the Direct Payments team would have negotiated away.
"However, the message I have heard loud and clear from Scotland's farmers and growers on twitter, email, my mobile at all hours of the night and at the Highland Show, is that we need clarity so people can start making plans. Today, finally, we have achieved that, and this package is an awful lot better than when we started on it."