Unhitch Scots farm support from UK policy – union

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall.

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NFU Scotland has called on agricultural support arrangements to be separated from a new UK approach to subsidy control.

Following the end of the Brexit transition period the UK has the freedom to design a new domestic subsidy control regime reflecting strategic interests particular to national circumstances.

Interim arrangements under the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) came into force on January 1, 2021 broadly mirroring the EU’s state aid rules, and the UK Government is currently consulting on future arrangements.

The UK Government seeks a subsidy control system that promotes the benefits that can be derived from subsidies while limiting the most harmful impacts.

In its response, NFU Scotland supports measures to deliver on the UK’s strategic interests, maintaining a dynamic market economy, protecting the UK internal market and acting as a responsible trade partner.

The union has, however, significant concerns about funding for agriculture and rural development policy goals being part of the proposed regime, and believes they should remain separate.

The primary concern is the potential impact on agricultural policy in Scotland, as this is a devolved issue.

NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall said: ‘Agricultural and rural development policy is a devolved area for very good reason.

‘It must reflect different needs and circumstances, and our concern is that these subsidy control proposals could significantly constrain that.

‘In our view, agricultural and rural development financial support must be kept separate from the subsidy control regime being proposed.

‘Financial support within agricultural and rural development policy remains absolutely critical if a vast array of policy objectives are to be met in the public interest – including producing food to the highest standards whilst helping to meet climate and biodiversity challenges.

‘Agricultural policy is devolved, and that should not be eroded via a backdoor of UK-wide subsidy control measures.

‘We fully accept that, in the context of the UK’s internal market, devolved support arrangements must not distort competition or trade within the UK.

‘NFU Scotland is clear that the integrity of the UK internal market must not be undermined by excessive divergence in support payments.

‘However, there are already clear safeguards in place internationally through the WTO Agreement on Agriculture and nationally through the UK’s Agricultural Support Framework to prevent this happening.’