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Scotland: Finnie comments on new environment standards for agriculture

September 9, 2004 12:00 AM

Scotland's farmers will need to meet strict environmental conditions to qualify under new subsidy arrangements.

Guidelines for Good Agricultural and Environmental Conditions require farmers to protect wildlife and habitats, combat soil erosion and improve environmental conditions. Guidelines on landscape features also advise not to use machinery too close to field margins to prevent damage to wildlife habitats.

Under reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) agreed in Brussels last year, production subsidies will be replaced by a single farm payment system in January 2005. Farmers must meet statutory mandatory requirements to qualify for the subsidy.

Minister for Environment and Rural Development Ross Finnie said:

"The Scottish Executive is committed to both protecting and enhancing our environment and ensuring the development of a sustainable farming industry.

"These fair yet demanding conditions illustrate the importance of the industry in shaping and maintaining the environment. They set a new standard for environmental performance in Scottish agriculture and will ensure farmers are recognised for the valuable role they play in nature conservation.

"CAP reform gives farmers greater freedom to farm within the demands of the market. These measures offer the flexibility needed to allow farmers to be market led while protecting the land and environment they cultivate for future generations."

Examples of the steps that farmers will have to take include reducing the risk of soil erosion in spring winds by maintaining crop cover or using shelter belts, avoiding the deterioration of habitats by controlling grazing levels, and maintaining and protecting landscape features.

Reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was agreed at the Council of Agriculture Ministers last June and will take effect from 2005 when the new Single Farm Payment Scheme will replace a number of existing livestock and arable payments.

These Cross-Compliance conditions mean that a farmer receiving direct payments will be required to respect a number of European laws (known as the Statutory Management Requirements) as well as maintaining the land in Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC).

These arrangements will be introduced on January 1 2005 (with some of the Statutory Management Requirements following later).

The Executive has worked closely with experts from the environmental and land management sectors, and conducted a 12 week Consultation Exercise, to develop a definition of GAEC that takes account of the wide and diverse range of farming types in Scotland.

Other parts of the UK have developed their own frameworks for GAEC.