SNP MSP and MEP Welcome EU Agriculture Reforms

20 November 2007
Scotland's only full member of the European Parliament's Agriculture Committee SNP MEP Alyn Smith has today been joined in Brussels by Highlands and Islands Member of the Scottish Parliament Rob Gibson MSP to give a cautious welcome to the presentation today of the European Commission's reform proposals on the Common Agricultural Policy.

EU Agriculture Commission Marianne Fischer Boel presented the package, the "CAP Healthcheck" to the Agriculture Committee and was quizzed by MEPs on the implications. The reforms will provide ongoing support for agricultural business up to and beyond 2013; abolish set aside; increase dairy quotas as a prelude to their abolition in 2015; and potentially increase the scope of compulsory modulation, thereby removing an element of the uneven playing field across the EU which has disadvantaged Scots farmers to date. There will also be an eventual end to export credits, which will see EU trade with third countries put onto a more equal basis.

Speaking after the meeting Alyn Smith MEP said:

"Everyone would agree that the CAP can be made better, and these solid, even modest, proposals will take that much needed reform closer.

"The package is in the main sensible, and it is safe to say that the Agriculture Committee will give them a fair wind. Of course, the European Parliament is only part of the picture and all eyes must now be on the member states gathered in secret in the Council of Ministers and we will need to watch carefully that the UK government does not take the opportunity to play politics with Scotland's farmers and then try to blame Brussels.

"The increase in compulsory modulation is in particular to be welcomed, as this has put Scots farmers at a disadvantage to their EU competitors, even though the Scots government managed to ensure a better deal for Scots farmers than south of the border. The Commission acting to put the whole of the EU onto a level playing field is a step which all Scots farmers will welcome."

Rob Gibson MSP commented:

"It is no clearer how lively rural communities will be supported because in Scots terms the remote Highlands and Islands have such huge problems with fuel prices to transport livestock, which is clearly outwith the scope of the agricultural budget. However, promises to reduce red tape and simplify form filling are always welcome but it remains to be seen how simple these forms will be, as promised by the Commission.

"Commissioner Fischer Boel sounded confident that she was delivering a coherent package, but the real question is whether it meets the specific needs of crofters and family farms and I will continue working with Alyn to ensure that their needs are not overlooked."