Jan 29 2014
New Approach to Agriculture to Help Scotland’s Farmers
For the last 50 years the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the European Union’s (EU) most important and costly common policy. This explains why traditionally it has taken a large part of the EU’s budget, although the percentage has steadily declined over recent years
It is time to change priorities and reform the CAP. I would like EU food to be produced in a more sustainable way, ensuring EU farming enhances the environment and biodiversity, mitigates climate change and is animal welfare friendly.
It is true that British farmers invest huge amounts of time and effort in delivering quality foods to the highest safety, environmental and animal welfare standards. I would like to see these high UK standards practiced across the EU, so that our farmers are not put at a competitive disadvantage.
We must raise the game across the field. We can do by working together with other Member States by meshing the rules. This would, I believe, give consumers confidence as well as enjoyment and sustenance from the food they eat. Of course, any change in rules must be accompanied by proper enforcement procedures to ensure a level playing field across the EU.
Unfortunately successive CAP reforms have set a direction of travel away from production linked support towards greater competitiveness and a greater focus on the delivery of public benefits. We want to see this process continued whilst maintaining quality and efficiency.
The CAP must not just work in the interests of farmers, but work in the interests of society at large, meeting the social, economic and specifically environmental concerns facing European rural communities.
As well as this, we need to stick to our commitment of supporting the EU’s responsibilities towards developing countries. All the trade-distorting elements of the CAP, such as export subsidies, which are damaging to Least Developed Countries, must be phased out as soon as possible.
Fairness in supply chains by cutting out so called ‘unfair trading practices’ between retailers and their direct suppliers would be a place to start.
I would like to see relations between farmers, processors and supermarkets improved. This could include: a tougher approach on supermarkets; a more rigorous enforcement of competition rules; a greater transparency in food prices, etc.
However, it is also important that our local farmers producing food at the beginning of the food chain get the price they deserve and are guaranteed fair and honest prices by the supermarkets that have enormous power and leverage.
The EU already offers protection under the Protected Food Names (PFN) scheme. Under this system a named product is given legal protection against imitation in and outside of the EU and producers benefit from having a raised awareness of their product throughout Europe.
Scotland already has 12 PFNs (Stornoway Black Pudding, Scottish Wild Salmon, Shetland Lamb, Orkney Beef, Orkney Lamb, Scottish Farmed Salmon, Scotch Lamb, Scotch Beef, Arbroath Smokie, Native Shetland Wool, Teviotdale Cheese, Bonchester Cheese).
Ideally I would like to see the registration simplified to encourage more farmers to apply and benefit from the protection.
All of this would amount a new approach to the CAP and help towards a secure future for Scotland’s agriculture