Publication - Minutes

ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: July 2020

Published: 1 Sep 2020
Date of meeting: 16 Jul 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the ARD (agriculture and rural development) Stakeholder Group held on 16 July 2020.

Published:
1 Sep 2020
ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: July 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Jamie Farquhar, Confederation of Forest Industries (CONFOR)
  • Maria De La Torre, Scottish National Heritage
  • Iain Muirhead, Agriculture Industries Confederation
  • Eleanor Kay, Scottish Land & Estates
  • Paul Flanagan, Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board
  • Nina Clancy, RSABI
  • Mags Granger, RSABI
  • Martin Morgan, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers
  • Colleen McCulloch, Soil Association
  • Tim Bailey, SAOS
  • Stephen Young, SLE
  • Steven Thomson, SRUC
  • Megan Welford, Soil Association
  • Grace Reid, NSA Scotland
  • Patrick Krause, Scottish Crofting Federation
  • Serafin Pazos-Vidal, COSLA
  • Vicki Swales, RSPB and Environment LINK
  • John Fletcher, Deer Vet
  • Alice De Soer, Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV)
  • Rob Clarke, Highlands and Islands Enterprise
  • Neil Wilson, Institute of Auctioneers and Appraisers (IAAS)
  • Drew Ratter, Semi-retired Crofter and Investment Committee of Shetland Charitable Trust (Chairman)

Internal

  • John Kerr, Head of Agricultural Policy Division (Chair)
  • Jen Willoughby, Head of National and International Regulatory Alignment
  • Emma Glen, CAP Policy Team (Secretariat)
  • Shirley Graham, SRDP Policy Team
  • David Anderson, SRDP Policy Team
  • Sheetal Mehra, RPID    
  • Vicky Dunlop, Branch Head, Rural Support Bill
  • Scott Sayers, AHW: EU Exit
  • Louise Lang, Brexit Policy Advisor
  • Paul Neison, RPID – Mapping and Land Services
  • Brendan Callaghan, Head of Operational Delivery, Scottish Forestry
  • Richard Haw, RESAS
  • Fiona Harrison, DD Sustainable Land Use and Rural Economy
  • Harriet Houlsby, RESAS
  • Lindsay Moran, RPID – Planning and Performance
  • Mike Parker, Head of Seed Certification, SASA

Items and actions

Welcome and introduction

The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting of the ARD Stakeholder Group and confirmed attendance. Papers were issued to the group in advance of the meeting.

The Group were informed that a decision had been taken to disband the Covid Agriculture Communication group as the initial response had ran its course. Members have been invited to join this group, which will run at a slightly higher frequency than before to keep everyone informed and up to date.

The minutes and actions from the previous meeting were agreed.

Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 updates

An update on Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 was provided in the documents issued prior to the meeting.

CAP Payment Strategy

It was confirmed that all targets had been met and that leaving the SAF deadline at the 15 May had been the correct decision as submissions were on a par with the previous year. The point was made that the Scottish Government were very appreciative of the efforts farmers and crofters had made to ensure the SAF window went smoothly.

Although we could use the Rural Development programme to distribute Covid crisis funds, at this time we will not be taking this up. If there are calls for this in the future it could be looked into. England, Wales and NI are in a similar position to us, however the EU will update us if any Member State adopts this proposal.

Contracts for the 2021 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme extensions are now being offered out and a response is required, that includes 47 organic producers. Organics has been a real success within this programme and we hope to continue this. We have just over 78,000ha that have been maintained or converted to organics over this programme. There are some discussions on AECS and its multi-annual nature, announcements will be made in due course for 2021.

The group was informed that a paper on LEADER was due to be published tomorrow by SRUC.

A query came on future funding for the next four years. Our intentions have not been set out yet, the situation at the moment is that they would run with CAP arrangements currently in place for a period of four years, and once we get to 2024 we intend to have our new policy in place. Things will be run forward unless we say otherwise, however we hope to be more definitive soon. We also need funding guarantees, and while Mr Eustice has been clear what funding he expects to be available for Agriculture, that position has not been echoed by Treasury, and this puts us in a difficult positions, especially for Multi-annual contracts. The UK spending review is delayed until the Autumn and this is impacting on this.

There will be an announcement on how the Scottish Government will be spending Ag Transformation Fund Money, which will hopefully be made soon. At the moment this will be regarding what is happening this year and it remains to be seen if we can commit to anything further, this will depend on the spending reviews towards the end of the year.

CAP simplification and improvement

An update was shared with the group in advance of the meeting.

It was confirmed that the SG are in dialogue with Ministers over how to take the four priority projects forward – capping, inspections, penalties, and greening. Thinking has developed with the climate change agenda, Brexit and subsequently Covid, so economic recovery in play – slightly complicated so that’s why we haven’t been more clear.

It was raised that forestry have strong expectations for the removal of the requirement for forestry to comply with the land parcel system due to the number of complaints they receive about the system. Funding is being lost from Europe so require a more sensible system. It was requested that a note of what is being suggested by forestry in relation to excluded from the land parcel system is circulated. Other stakeholders favour a more integrated approach to land use, rather than separation. AP – address at next meeting or ask for a written update from Scottish Forestry.

It was also requested that if there are any issues or queries with the system could they be forwarded to SG so that we can help – AP – CONFOR asked to put forward examples of mapping queries. 

Due to the appetite for discussion here this will be added as an agenda item for the next meeting.

Agriculture (Retained EU Law and Data) (Scotland) Bill

The Bill completed Stage 2 on 17 June. Information on the Bill was included in the papers issued in advance of the meeting. 

There was a sunset clause accepted at Stage 2 i.e. any regulations made before 7 May 2026 will continue, however after this date it will not be possible to make regulations using the powers in this Bill. Stage 3 is expected soon after recess. The Bill team are keen to hear from stakeholders and happy to arrange meetings with those who wish to take the opportunity.

A stakeholder highlighted that there had been a lot of discussion to include a purpose clause in the Bill, as unsure what the SG intentions are once they have the powers to make changes. Clarity is needed on why payments are being made to farmers and what the outcomes will be. This was supported by other stakeholders who felt a direction had to be set with regards to dealing with climate change and diversity.

The SG clarified that with regards to the purpose, during Stage 2 discussions it was not clear what stakeholders were looking for. This is a technical Bill, rather than a policy Bill, which provides Ministers with regulation making powers to ensure CAP schemes can continue to operate beyond 2020, make simplifications and improvements etc. during the transition period. Putting a purpose on the face of the Bill could cut across the outcome of the Future Food and Farming Group report, so there is a risk it could limit what the future policy around this could be. The procedure element of the legislation and regulations does allow for stakeholder engagement, for example around capping, but concerns are recognised. Before any decisions are made stakeholders will be consulted.

Farming and Food Production Future Policy Group

 Officials could not say any more than what had been provided in the papers in advance of the meeting. It had been hoped that the report would have been published by now but it has been affected by Covid-19. The group are looking to provide more detail on next steps and what work strains the SG should be looking at and are hoping to meet in August. Stakeholders called for pilots to be introduced in this intervening period as the timeline is ticking and we need to test future policy suggestions.

Covid-19 recovery and green recovery

It was confirmed that the climate change update which was due in April, but delayed due to Covid-19, will be framed around green recovery. Although Scotland’s climate change targets are extremely challenging, internally work is picking up again with advice being provided from expert groups. 

A stakeholder raised the fact that people are developing an interest in buying food directly and locally, which farmers want to develop. Are there any plans in place to build on this and support short supply chains as well as local abattoirs? AP – Food and Drink lead here, update to be provided by next meeting. 

However, another stakeholder made the point that although local abattoirs would be great, unless there is more stock then we are just divvying up the cake. DEFRA are currently looking into more rural abattoirs but there’s an economic dimension that shouldn’t be forgotten.

It was also raised that there had been no recent communications from the Climate Change Group. The group has had a hiatus due to staff changes but new resources will shortly be in place. AP – provide specifics on or before the next meeting on this group reconvening.

Brexit

Officials noted that although the written update that had been provided on this section was lengthy he thought it best to be expansive given the subject. The official deadline for extending the transition period has passed, with the UKG telling us they hope for an agreement with the EU in the Autumn. SG are currently attempting to improve our relationship with DEFRA during this time and UKG have opened up trade talks with other countries too. Without an extension to the transition period there is a definite risk that some legislation may not be in place in the required time scale.

With regards to the Northern Ireland protocol / 3rd party, the published paper makes no reference to Scotland or Wales. Scottish ministers have sent a list of 55 questions to DEFRA for clarification. 

A stakeholder raised common frameworks and that the current approach at the end of phase 3 will be consultation of stakeholders. Given the time pressures will there be anything meaningful? Additionally, in relation, rural development was identified – any clarity or recent development on this? AP – Officials to provide a response on both questions.

Another stakeholder raised the fact that with the UK Bill going through there were discussions ongoing on how to protect food standards and queried whether there were any plans to ensure food imports are the quality we expect and what mechanisms producers would have if there were problems exporting food? It was clarified that Ministers have been very clear on the fact they want to maintain existing standards. There is much uncertainty at the moment but will be pushing for clarity on funding and structures on the future of exports in this country. 

It was confirmed that Mr Russell had sent a strong letter on behalf of the SG to UK Government colleagues, reminding them of the devolved nature of ag policy and that any attempt to regulate with UK policy would be resisted by the Scottish Government. Powers in the Bill allow us to align ourselves with the EU or the UK – this becomes a choice. 

Stakeholders noted concerns about the EU market especially with the NI issue advantaging EU producers.

Future of the Group

It was decided that as the next meeting was scheduled for three weeks from now this should be postponed until the end of August to allow for meaningful discussion regarding the outstanding issues which have been raised. AP – New date to be circulated for August Mmeeting. 

A.O.B

IAAS informed the group that Kelso Ram Sales had been cancelled due to Covid-19 and financial concerns. Work has taken place with IAAS to accommodate the sales which would’ve happened here across the country and it is believed enough dates have been ensured.

Significant nervousness over reducing the social distancing limit from 2m to 1m in industrial areas even with the use of face masks. We realise this is a very important issue to be looked at. Hopefully in the future guidance will be available and engagement through current forums would be welcome.

CONFOR pointed out that they’ll face similar problems in the autumn if the 2 metre distancing is still in place. Lifting and moving plants indoors will cause major problems. Basamid authorisation, which ends in July 2020, was raised. Chemical Regulations Division are uninclined to issue an emergency authorisation for use. It was highlighted that this could be catastrophic for the industry and are looking for support from SG in this regard. AP -  Flag this to colleagues at SASA and feedback.

Actions

Action Owner Completed
Note to be provided to the group on the land parcel system - what’s being proposed and what the implications would be? SG  
Any issues or queries with the system to be forwarded to RPID so they can assist CONFOR 28/07
Are there any government plans to build on the interest the public have developed in buying food directly and locally? SG  
Update on the Climate Change Group SG  
Will there be any meaningful discussion with stakeholders at phase 3 of common frameworks? And in relation to common frameworks rural development was identified, any clarity or recent development on that? SG  
New date to be circulated for the August meeting SG 21/07
Flag issue with Basamid authorisation to SASA colleagues and feedback SASA 28/07