NFU Scotland (NFUS) has spoken out about its concerns that Scottish fruit and vegetable growers will be disadvantaged by proposed EC reforms. The EC announced a number of changes, which could come into effect from January 2008 if agreed by EU farm ministers (Grower, 25 January).
But NFUS is worried about the proposal to integrate fruit and vegetable sectors, including potato growers, into the Single Farm Payment (SFP) scheme.
The move could cause problems in member states, or regions such as Scotland, that adopted the historic model of allocation SFP entitlements and are therefore not paying support payments on land used to grow fruit and vegetables — because they are historically unsupported.
So while existing fruit and vegetable growers would gain no support under the system, existing holders of SFP entitlements who decided to go into growing fruit and vegetable on their land could claim.
In England, the NFU has welcomed the reform because members can already receive support in the fruit and vegetables sectors since the regional payment model was adopted and is area based.
NFUS chief executive Andy Robertson said: “The historic model of single farm payments included a very important mechanism to prevent fruit and vegetable growers being disadvantaged. This was the ‘negative list’, which to date has protected the unsupported sectors by preventing SFP recipients effectively subsidising a move into fruit and vegetables.
“It would be quite wrong for the negative list to be abolished and for this protection to be removed. If the proposal is adopted, I can see no other way for the [Scottish] Executive to protect our fruit and vegetable growers than by offering them entitlements.”
It is feared that unless the Scottish Executive gives support, growers in Scotland will be overtaken by countries that do receive support from their governments.
Robertson said: “We will be working closely with Brussels and the Executive to ensure the concerns of Scotland’s fruit and vegetable businesses are heard.”
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