Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Upland Solutions - draft report

The latest version of the draft report has been circulated to the members of the Forum and to those who attended or supported the workshops that were held in the Muirkirk & Tomatin study areas earlier in the year.  Feedback on this version has been requested by 1 December with a view to finalising the Report by mid-December.

The intention is to produce a Summary Report that will cover the key findings but not include a lot of the detail that explains how the project was run.  This will be drafted at the same time as the final, full report and both versions will be available to download from the Forum's website.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

A Moorland Conference for Scotland?

Should the Moorland Forum be holding a conference to bring together research and practical issues. See my comments from the conference held by the MFF project 15-16 November 2010 on the Heather Trust's Blog.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Pack Inquiry - The NFUS View

I would like to thank Jonnie Hall for providing this summary. 

The final report from the ‘Pack Inquiry’ into the future support for agriculture in Scotland has now been published.   The Inquiry’s key messages to the Scottish Government are contained in two sets of recommendations.   The first set is 18 ‘Negotiating Points’ for the Scottish Government to pursue in its negotiations at UK and EU level regarding the future of agricultural and rural development support.   The second is a set of 22 ‘Recommendations’ providing advice to the Scottish Government on matters where the Inquiry expects that the Scottish Government will have discretion in shaping the future system. 

This business guide update provides a brief summary of the final report.   A full copy of the report can be downloaded.

It must be remembered that we remain several years away from the EU political agreement on CAP reform and while there will be a tendency to concentrate on the detailed proposals of the Pack Inquiry Report, the critical aspect is the direction of travel proposed.   


The Report gives a strong robust defence of why agricultural support is necessary.    It argues that a change from the historic approach to distributing payments will be necessary and that a move away from historic payments should occur one-year post reform with the new schemes adopted in one step.   In the event of a phased transition it is stated that a National Reserve should be created to give payments to new entrants who have started a business since 2003. 

The Inquiry takes the view that future support must be about maintaining a vibrant and productive agricultural sector.   Although the goal should be a simple support regime, the geographical variation in Scotland means that a broad ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is unlikely to be justifiable and meet the needs of the industry.   Dealing with the different sectoral requirements introduces a layer of complexity and a balance needs to be struck between a regime that is simple but lacks targeting and one that is more complex, but is able to deal specifically with a number of targets for support. 

The Future Support Regime 

The Inquiry suggests that the LFA designation provides one way of distinguishing between types of farming with different needs, opportunities and choices.   The LFA is proposed because it is a recognised designation across Europe and because the area is already mapped and the boundaries already established.   Whilst an European Commission-led review of the LFA area across Europe is to be undertaken in the coming years, it is not expected that Scotland will face significant redesignation. 

The Inquiry believes that dividing Scotland into LFA and Non-LFA land provides an appropriate approach as it recognises the different opportunities, needs and challenges of farmers in these areas.   Due to the dominance of rough grazing and permanent pasture, farmers in the LFA face limited choices about what to produce.   The risk of land abandonment, and associated negative economic, social and environmental consequences, in these areas is high.   The Inquiry believes that farmers in the LFA should be supported by three mechanisms: 
  • An area payment on eligible land (defined by the Inquiry, including land in an approved environmental scheme but not woodland) as a low base payment thus minimising the disruption to the land market.   Extensive grazing is paid on the equivalent area to a stocking rate minimum of 0.12 Livestock Units (LU) per hectare.
  • A Top Up Fund to encourage delivery against the global challenges which recognises the ability of a business to contribute by using Standard Labour Requirements (SLR) to determine the individual fund per business.
  • Headage payments designed to stabilise cow and ewe numbers on this marginal land thereby securing the basis for the provision of public benefits.   Money would be paid out on lambs and beef calves. The annual budget for each would be set at the outset.

The Inquiry proposes that farmers in the Non-LFA land, who have a range of options as to what to produce, will be supported in two ways: 
  • An area payment making up two thirds of support.
  • A Top Up Fund payment making up one third of support, paid on an area basis.

The Future of the Less Favoured Support Scheme 

The Inquiry’s proposed method of delivering direct payments in Scotland in the post-2013 period relies on dividing Scotland into two regions, namely LFA and Non-LFA.   It is not surprising therefore that the Inquiry suggests a radical change to the current LFASS. 

The Inquiry recommends that €45 million of the total LFASS budget is paid as a supplement to the Top Up Fund in the LFA region.   This would add approximately €1,800 to the current Top Up Fund of €6,400 per standard labour unit.   This leaves €25 million to remain in Pillar 2 where it is suggested that it should be directed at the areas suffering extreme handicap and therefore the areas at greatest risk of land abandonment. 

Obviously, there's a lot more to the Report than this brief summary, but this is the main thrust - and remember the health's not Brian Pack that decides the future of the CAP! 

Jonathan R Hall
Head of Rural Policy
NFU Scotland
Rural Centre - West Mains
EH28 8LT
Mobile:  07770 934 898
Direct Line:  0131 472 4002

What do the UK Uplands Mean to You?

Photograph: Richard Wheeler
The Sustainable Uplands project has published a new website to capture comments from people across the UK about the uplands.  This builds on the work carried out by the Project that included workshops in Galloway, the Peak District and Nidderdale.  Feel free to add your comments, and other media to the Wall!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Upland Solutions - feedback on draft report

The Forum has been working with two rural communities in Scotland: at Muirkirk, East Ayrshire; and Tomatin, Inverness-shire as part of a project we have called Upland Solutions.  The project set out to apply the experience available through its members to investigate the two study areas.  A workshop was held in each area to gather information about the view that local people had of the area, their aspirations for the future and what support they needed to achieve these aspirations.  The Forum was also keen to establish what were the perceived blockages to progress, whether these were regulatory, financial or for other reasons.  This work is nearing completion and the final report is being drafted.

Forum Members  are reminded that comments on the current draft version of the report have been asked for by Monday, 8 November.  Feedback will be incorporated into a further draft that will then be circulated to the Forum and to those who attended or supported the workshops.  Feedback will be used to produce a final version of the report and a short summary of the key findings by mid-December.

This is an interesting and important piece of work for the Forum and I look forward to be able to circulate the final report.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Langholm Moor Demonstration Project

At last week's meeting, the Forum received an update about this important project from the Project Manager, Graeme Dalby.

For those wanting to know more about the ongoing work on a monthly basis, may I recommend the Monthly Diary run by the Headkeeper, Simon Lester.  There is much interesting and relevant information in it that relates to the challenges of running a grouse moor anywhere.  The October entry has just been added to the site.

IUCN Peatland Programme - Open Inquiry 3 November

The Peatland Programme is holding an Open Inquiry in Edinburgh on 3 November to allow expert witnesses to give their views 'for the record' in a non-confrontational manner.  The aim is to obtain evidence and views from the managers of peatland and to gain an understanding of the motives for peatland restoration from a practitioners viewpoint.  End users and regulators will be asked what are the drivers for peatland conservation and what opportunities exist for improving delivery.  A wider public audience will also be able to provide their views.

I will be appearing in front of the panel, with Tim Baynes, to provide a landowner / land manager perspective.  We had to prepare a statement in advance and this can be downloaded.

In view of the relevance of this event to the work of the Moorland Forum, with input from Clifton Bain, the Peatland Programme Director, a press release has been issued to promote the programme and this event.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Four ways to cost-effectively protect the uplands

The Sustainable Uplands project, led by Mark Reed from ACES, presented submission (available here) to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee’s inquiry into Farming in the Uplands, in London, last Friday.  It highlights the top four ways that the project team thought would most cost effectively protect the uplands.

Do you agree with the four ways that have been selected?  Would your choice have included other issues?