Fri 21 Jun 2019

The Common Agricultural Policy - update

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a European programme that provides a system of agricultural funding and support throughout the EU. Scottish farmers and crofters, as well as rural businesses and communities, have been able to access and benefit from CAP payments through the Scottish Government for some years.

In a move to achieve transparency in the use of public funds, the UK Government has published information about all UK recipients of CAP payments on Defra's website, including the details of those beneficiaries located in Scotland. The Government's decision follows EU regulations requiring all Member States to identify beneficiaries of CAP subsidy payments on a single national website.

The information can be accessed through a search portal on Defra's website and the results can be narrowed down through the different search options available (e.g. name, address, value, scheme).  The information provided covers all payments made in the financial years  2016-2017 and 2017-2018. The total amount received by each beneficiary is shown under three headings: direct aids (e.g. the Basic Payment Scheme), market schemes and rural development measures, which can be drilled down into further, if required.  The names of those who receive less than the equivalent of €1,250 (approx. £1,114 at the time of writing) in total subsidy are not shown on the website however, the amounts paid to these recipients can still be seen.

For those interested, the information can be accessed at Defra's website.

Further changes afoot

As we are getting closer and closer to the post-Brexit realities of rural Scotland, further changes are sure to come in the farm funding landscape.  When the UK leaves the EU, it will also leave the CAP payment system behind, which will require to be replaced with a domestic policy.  A UK Agriculture Bill was introduced in September 2018 and is currently sitting in the House of Commons, some way away from receiving Royal Assent and being made into law.

In England, the Government has published its proposals for a new Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), which is set to replace the current CAP arrangements.  This has been met with high levels of criticism, with a recent report published by the National Audit Office revealing that the ELMS is likely to face logistical problems in implementing a new digital payment system, which could lead to significant delays in farmers receiving their payments and leaving them out of pocket heading into the new scheme.

In Scotland, the Scottish Government has set out proposals to replace the CAP up to 2023.  Basic payments will continue into 2019 and between 2020 to 2023 there will be continued payments for current recipients within the CAP architecture, with some possible changes, such as capping of payments and the streamlining of applications, inspections and accounting.

It is anticipated that further consultations and civic engagement across Scotland will be undertaken by the Scottish Government to help develop new approaches for agriculture and the rural economy. Indeed, the Scottish Government's Simplification Task Force (of which our Senior Associate, Gail Watt, is a member) has been set up with a view of tackling these exact matters and tasked with looking at the various aspects of simplification.

 We are hopeful that when the Scottish Government's proposals are revealed, these will be met with positive feedback and will provide clarity on what farmers, crofters and rural businesses in Scotland can expect post-Brexit. 

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