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- Farming and rural
Rural Affairs Secretary seeks greater flexibility from Europe.
The EU must ensure European Greening rules meet Scottish needs, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead will insist in Brussels next week.
Greening is a new element of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), where a third of the direct farm payment budget is ring-fenced for environmental schemes.
Mr Lochhead is seeking a meeting with representatives from the European Commission which has requested extensive revisions to Scottish Government proposals for an alternative to the three crop rule – rendering them virtually unworkable.
The Rural Affairs Secretary said:
"The three crop rule does not work for Scotland and, in this case, the European Commission is proving a real obstacle to our efforts to find a reasonable and workable alternative.
"This meeting is our last chance to persuade the Commission to allow us to implement our proposals in 2016 – proposals which will help ease the bureaucratic burden for farmers whilst achieving the environmental benefits we are seeking.
"Productivity and yields can be improved by increasing the number of birds and insects on farmland that eat pests and pollinate crops, and also by applying the right nutrients to the land.
"It makes good business sense to know that the right product is being applied in the right quantities, and money isn't being wasted. Many farmers already do this. And at RACCE Committee today, I highlighted the importance of nitrogen management plans as good agricultural business practice. For those farmers not currently using nutrient management plans, the PLANeT software programme funded by Scottish Government is available to all farmers free of charge.
"But Greening must meet Scottish needs and I have been listening closely to feedback from the industry. That is why we've made the very modest new requirement for a permanent grassland nutrient management plan as light touch as possible, after delaying it for a year to give farmers time to prepare.
"In addition, I have asked my officials to look at the technical implementation of Greening, to see if there may be scope for any further simplification."
At RACCE committee, Mr Lochhead also highlighted Scotland's pragmatic and proportionate approach to Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs) in an evidence session on new designations, which has seen more than 2,200 farms fully or partially removed from NVZs and the designation of two new zones, affecting around 130 farms.
The Rural Affairs Secretary will raise Greening equivalence whilst in Brussels for December's EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council.
Greater EU flexibility on Greening was raised by Environment Minister Aileen McLeod at November's Agriculture Council: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/CAP- must-fit-1f51.aspx
Greening Guidance for 2016 is available from https://www.ruralpayments.org. It sets out standard crop diversification measures that will continue to be available to farmers, as well as the alternative options that farmers may be able to choose if EU approval is granted.
PLANeT is a nutrient management software programme, funded by Scottish Government. The software has a programme specifically designed to fit with Scottish farming practices and is available at www.planet4farmers.co.uk
For more information on NVZs, see: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/farmingrural/Agriculture/Environment/NVZintro