This item was published during the term of a previous administration that ended in April 2007
New environmental payments agreed
The Agri Environment Rates Review Group today announced new payment rates to encourage farmers and crofters to protect and enhance the environment.
The Rural Stewardship and Organic Aid schemes provide opportunities for farmers to increase biodiversity, improve water quality and enhance Scotland's landscapes.
On behalf of the Review Group, Environment and Rural Development Minister Mr Finnie said:
"The Scottish Executive is committed to both protecting and enhancing our environment and ensuring the development of a sustainable farming industry. I believe these rates represent a fair and fitting compensation to farmers and crofters who opt to manage their land in a way that enhances the value to Scotland's wildlife and people. Scotland's landscape is an asset shared by all."
The National Farmers Union Scotland President John Kinnaird said:
"The environmental work undertaken on farms up and down the country is hugely important. Our priority was firstly to ensure that existing work continued and that farmers received fair support for it and, secondly, to ensure the payments encouraged future participants in schemes. The industry and Executive have worked successfully together to devise a package which will properly support farmers' efforts to manage the countryside and protect Scotland's wildlife and habitats."
Mandy Gloyer, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland, said:
"This is a welcome compromise arrangement which should maintain the support amongst Scotland's farming community for agri-environment schemes, and continue the efforts to reverse the declines in farmland biodiversity. We are particularly pleased to see some targeted payment rates, which benefit threatened birds such as the corncrake, actually increase as part of this review."
Scottish Crofting Foundation Vice Chairman Norman Leask said:
"The process of agreeing these revised rates has been a very constructive one. Our basic aim has been to make sure that no-one is disadvantaged in the reformed CAP through participation in an agri-environment scheme and we are pleased with the efforts made to ensure that this is the case. For the future, the upwards revision of some of the most important rates for crofting areas is very welcome."
Carey Coombs of Soil Association Scotland said:
"We're delighted with the outcome of these discussions and the positive new rates. The process of negotiation over the new organic aid Scheme payments was open and inclusive and allowed a full range of opinions to be heard. A lot of hard work was done to achieve favourable payment rates, both for those considering conversion to organic farming and for those who are already farming in this way. The new rates show increased support for organic farming and recognise the important part it plays in creating sustainable food systems for Scotland, boosting the rural economy and delivering fresh local produce to Scotland's local communities."
The Review Group comprised representatives from National Farmers' Union for Scotland, Scottish Rural Property and Business Association, Scottish Crofting Foundation, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Agricultural College, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group Scotland, Environment LINK, the Soil Association and Scottish Organic Producers' Association.
The new rates will apply to farmers who joined in 2003 or later and those with successful challenges. Other existing participants will continue on the old rates until their schemes expire.
Agri-environment scheme payments for management measures are based substantially on income foregone.
For many payment rates, the income foregone element included the loss of CAP subsidy for taking land out of production (for example, loss of Arable Area Aid payments in relations to areas such as grass margins or beetlebanks) or for reducing livestock numbers (for example, loss of Sheep Annual Premium in relation to stock disposal on heather moorland).