New entrants have voice heard in Europe

THE disadvantages faced by new entrants to farming and ways of helping them were discussed by Scottish MEP Alyn Smith during a meeting with senior European Commission officials responsible for the future of the Single Farm Payment.

Mr Smith, who was accompanied by Roger McCall of the New Entrants Forum, an independent group formed to highlight the way young farmers are detrimentally affected by the current SFP scheme in Scotland, said afterwards the meeting had been ‘useful and constructive’, while Mr McCall added it was ‘another step on a journey’.

He said he welcomed the fact the Commission was ‘fully aware’ of the ‘real handicaps’ faced by new entrants and were aware the system needed urgent reform. “The market in entitlements is not working to support active farming as it should. While this will, to an extent, resolve itself as the new CAP comes in after 2013, there is a pressing problem now and it is right we look at all our options.

“I was pleased the Commission is clearly determined to find the right solution for the next reform of the regulation in 2013, so new entrants have the same rights as other farmers from day one. Amending the regulation itself before 2013 is not on the cards, but we do have other options. We can find innovative solutions using the current laws to favour active farmers.”

He said he would be writing to the Scottish Government regarding the possibility of transferring money from entitlement transfers to a National Reserve, though he added such proposals must be investigated thoroughly, to prevent any more ‘unwanted side effects’.

“This has too often been portrayed as a case of farmer versus farmer, but existing holders of SFP entitlements who actively farm the land have nothing to fear from reform. Assisting eager new entrants who want to contribute to our agricultural and climate goals can only be good for Scotland.”

Mr McCall said it was a ‘big step forward’ for young people and new entrants to finally have their voice heard at European level. “It was made clear that financial hardship now exists for young businesses as a direct result of the SFP scheme. These businesses need help if they are to survive until changes happen.”

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