Back to SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/POLITICAL
Land Management Contracts - a joke,
if they were not so sad.
Filed 28 Feb 05
The Courier newspaper carried a report on Saturday
26th February of the speech by Ross Finnie, the Scottish Environment
and Rural Development Minister, on the occasion of the annual general
meeting of NFU Scotland at St Andrews.
The article was headed "Scotland set to lead
Europe on LMCs". His address which lasted about an hour was
centred on the claim that Scotland will be the first region of the
EU to have land management contracts (LMCs). But will Scotland be
first for the right reasons: that is to say, with a sensible and
The concept of the long awaited LMCs is to enable
farmers to choose from a wide range of measures and codes of practice
for which they will receive financial payment. Such payment is of
course not new money but monies siphoned off from the new single
farm payment (SFP) - a procedure referred to as modulation and amounting
to 6% this year and rising progressively to 10%.
According to the Courier - whose farm editor is
now a LibDem MSP - the LMCs were trumpeted by Ross Finnie with such
"The Scottish Executive is committed to creating a prosperous
and sustainable agricultural industry that achieves the highest
standards of stewardship of the land.
"The menus announced today will deliver public goods for
public money, from improved biodiversity and water quality to
closer links between farming and the wider public.
"It also provides incentives to meet market demand, for
example focussing on quality production"
Fine words, fine hype - but what are the 17 options
on offer that all Scottish farmers (and no doubt all environmentalists)
have been waiting for? After all the SFP scheme took effect from
1st January 2005 which is now two months ago.
But an hour long speech, with all the build up
orchestrated by the Minister, did not reveal to the delegates what
the 17 options actually are. But the joke is that members of the
media did know. The Courier in its article detailed one of these
17 options, thus:
"When sowing plots of spring cereals, fodder root crops
or fodder rape on inbye land higher payment will be made when
a cereal crop is harvested by binder and stooks gathered into
"The payment rate is £40 per hectare per year and
a higher rate of £150 per year for stooking."
The Courier's comment is a good one:
"The Minister seemed blissfully unaware of the fact that
the manufacture of binders in the UK ceased almost 60 years ago
and that the only people who would have the skills to stook, far
less build a stack, will be seriously senior citizens."
The Minister's statement would be a joke if only
it was part of a bad dream. Sadly it does appear to reflect reality.
But even yet the Minister's Department has not informed the nation's
farmers of any of the 17 options, stating that they will be told
when the IACS forms come out in mid March - or thereabouts.
If the delegates at the NFU Scotland agm had been
told of the binder-stooking-stacking option the Minister would surely
have brought upon himself an uproar of ridicule.
Is it just a coincidence that SEERAD excused themselves
from turning up at a recent seminar in Perth on SFP run by a leading
firm of accountants and cereal merchants (1)? SEERAD's excuse
was that they did not yet know what the rules were. Perhaps they
were just too scared to articulate them. We wait with bated breath
to hear the other 16 options which constitute LMCs.
In the meantime farmers have to get on with making
decisions about the spring work right now and many will have already
done so. What is to be ploughed up, what is to be sown and how is
to be harvested? What is the predicted cashflow? All these are highly
relevant to running an efficient business which farmers are so encouraged
to do - but who is messing up?
Rather than wanting to be the first with a new
batch of poorly thought out rules, our competitors the French have
kept all their production subsidies intact. It would appear that
they are taking a much more pragmatic look at what Brussels is trying
to make them do.
1. Irvine, James (2005). SEERAD fails to show
at CAP reform seminar - allegedly because they still do not know
the rules that will apply.
See SOCIAL/ECONOMIC/POLITICAL Homepage, filed 09 Feb 05,
Here to View