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Stackyard News Jan 08

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Union Disillusioned as Key Support Schemes are Cut

NFUS has expressed its disillusionment at the news that a key animal health and welfare scheme, described as a pioneering when it was introduced by the Scottish Executive in 2005, has been dropped from Scotland’s forthcoming Rural Development Programme.

NFUS President Jim McLaren

NFUS President Jim McLaren

The Programme is due to go in front of a Brussels committee for approval this week.

The Scottish Government informed stakeholders last night (Thursday) that it had failed to convince the European Commission to approve some schemes previously available under its Land Management Contract Menu Scheme.  These include the Animal Health and Welfare Programme, support for key farm assurance schemes and funding to host farm visits and talks.

The news will not affect the 5000 farmers currently involved in the Animal Health and Welfare Programme because they have already agreed a five-year programme – an assurance NFUS has received from the Scottish Government this morning.  However, it will be closed to new participants in 2008.  Unlike the animal health measure, the support for farm assurance membership is determined on an annual basis and this too will be closed this year, so those that received support in previous years will not do so in 2008.  Some farm assurance schemes will remain eligible for support but the major schemes covering the red meat, cereals and dairy industries are excluded in 2008. 

NFUS President Jim McLaren said:

“I am hugely disappointed that the Scottish Government, which was still hopeful at Christmas of getting approval, has been unable to convince the European Commission of the merits of these schemes.

“The animal health and welfare measure was particularly popular and was rightly hailed by the previous Scottish Executive administration as a pioneering new measure.  This development will not go down well on the ground and I am both hugely frustrated and bewildered at this turn of events.

“We have at least gained an assurance that the thousands currently involved will be able to see through the five-year programme, however that will be little consolation to farmers that were hoping to apply this year.  Members of the major quality assurance scheme now also find the door closed to funding and those who were doing a real service to the industry and public by hosting visits and talks on their own farm have been excluded.

“I will be speaking to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead as soon as I can to stress the concern of industry at this and to hear why the European Commission could not be convinced.  This is a real set back for the new menu scheme and all efforts must go into reinstating these measures for 2009.”

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NFU Scotland