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Farming minister responds to EU funding package

Published: 7 Sep 2015 17:47

Answers needed over Commission's €500 million support for farmers.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead wants clarity over how the European Commission's proposed funding package for farmers will benefit Scotland.

The Cabinet Secretary said it is unclear how the funding will benefit Scottish farmers - if at all - following today's meeting of European agriculture ministers in Brussels.

He said:

"Like many Member States the Scottish Government is concerned that, although today's package touches on important issues, it lacks urgency and substance.

"This proposal from the European Commission is inadequate and too vague. It does refer to the cash flow, market and supply chain issues the industry is currently facing, but we urgently need clarity on what it means for Scottish farmers both in the short and long term.

"It will also offer no comfort to sheep farmers in Scotland, with its main focus on dairy, beef and pigmeat. We must look at the entire sector, not just sections of it."

Mr Lochhead added more information was also needed on steps the Scottish Government can take to ensure support payments are made at the earliest opportunity:

"My officials are working flat out to ensure that support payments start at the end of December. The Commission is offering to ease controls to ensure all payments can be made as quickly as possible once the window opens, but we desperately need clarity on what we need to do - and what we don't need to do - in order to make sure this happen."

He also took the opportunity to raise the issue of Country of Origin Labelling with his UK counterparts and urged the Commission to take more action.

He said:

"I am still urging the Commission to make Country of Origin Labelling a priority.

"This and the EU discussion only reinforces my view that we need to take urgent action back home in Scotland and UK where all four UK farming ministers and our respective unions need to work together to reach an agreement with retailers across the UK on specific steps required to ensure a thriving future for farming.

"I forceably pressed this point with Defra Secretary of State Liz Truss at our meeting in Brussels."