Orkney’s farming community could lose up to £7million a year as a result of “ill thought out” Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) reforms, NFU Scotland has warned.
A study commissioned by the union found that a typical family livestock farm on the Isle of Westray would lose around 48% of Pillar 1 direct payments support, plus £2,800 a year once the Land Managers Options (LMO) scheme ends.
NFUS says this would leave small island farms with little scope to invest for the future as they are heavily reliant on support payments to survive.
“The consultant’s report makes grim reading for the Orkney economy, estimating that there could be a loss of over £7million per year – amounting to well over £300 for every person on Orkney – should the reforms proceed as proposed,” said the union’s regional board chairman for Orkney, Brian Moss.
He urged the government to maximise the use of voluntary coupled support, calling for an enhanced payment for island-born calves.
Mr Moss also called for an enhanced area payment for island areas in recognition of their “increased vulnerability and lack of possibly alternative enterprises”, and strict measures to ensure inactive land does not receive subsidy support.
“Orkney’s farmers have led the way in enhancing the health status of their animals with the work done to eradicate BVD which, in turn, formed the template for the national scheme being one example,” added Mr Moss.
“It is imperative that the expertise and stockmanship skills which has led to the islands hard-earned reputation as a source of high-quality livestock is not laid to waste by ill thought out reforms of the support systems.”
He said the wider island community – suppliers, hauliers, employees and companies servicing the farming industry – was also at threat from the proposed reforms.
“There are a number of measures that can be used to reduce the effects of the changes and it is vital that they are deployed to ensure a viable future for agriculture on the islands,” added Mr Moss.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said there was less money in the pot due to the UK Government negotiating Scotland “right to the bottom of the Cap funding tables” and not passing on nearly £190million in convergence uplift to Scottish farmers.
“The Scottish Government is seeking views on our proposals for implementing direct payments under the new Cap, and encourage all interested parties to respond to our consultation,” she said.
“We will carefully consider all feedback received before reaching final decisions.”