Publication - Minutes

ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: May 2020

Published: 27 Jul 2020
Date of meeting: 20 May 2020

Minutes from the meeting of the ARD (agriculture and rural development) Stakeholder Group held on 20 May 2020.

Published:
27 Jul 2020
ARD Stakeholder Group minutes: May 2020

Attendees and apologies

Attendees

  • Catherine Sloan, SAYFC Agri and Rural Affairs Vice Chairman
  • Ross Macleod, Scottish Rural College
  • Martin Morgan, Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers
  • Alice De Soer, The Central Association of Agricultural Valuers
  • Ian Muirhead, Agricultural Industries Confederation
  • Jackie Green, Scottish Enterprise
  • James Bruhn, Historic Environment Scotland
  • Kirk Hunter, Dairy UK
  • Patrick Krause, Scottish Crofting Federation
  • Vicki Swales, RSPB & Environment LINK
  • Douglas Bell, Quality Meat Scotland
  • Claudia Rowse, Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Jamie Farquhar, Confederation of Forest Industries
  • Sheila Kennedy, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
  • Mags Granger, RSABI
  • Neil McCorkindale, Scottish Beef Association
  • Claudia Rowse, SNH
  • Alan Hutchinson, Institute of Auctioneers
  • Eleanor Kay, Scottish Land and Estates
  • Grace Reid, NSA Scotland
  • Dave Miller, The James Hutton Institute
  • Steven Thompson, SRUC
  • Drew Ratter, Semi-retired Crofter and Investment Committee of Shetland Charitable Trust (Chairman)

Internal

  • John Kerr, Head of Agricultural Policy Division (chair)
  • Kirsten Beddows, Branch Head, CAP Policy
  • Emma Glen, CAP Policy Team (Secretariat)
  • David Anderson, SRDP Policy Team
  • Shirley Graham, SRDP Policy Team
  • Mike Wilson, SRDP Policy Team
  • Sheetal Mehra, RPID
  • Vicky Dunlop, Branch Head, Rural Support Bill
  • Lynne Stewart, Operational Delivery, RPID
  • Douglas Chisholm, Head of Application Management, ISD
  • Mike Parker, Head of Seed Certification, SASA
  • Brendan Callaghan, Head of Operational Delivery, Scottish Forestry

Items and actions

Welcome and Introduction

1. The chair welcomed everyone to the meeting of the ARD Stakeholder group and confirmed attendance. Prior to the meeting a group of four documents were circulated to the group, to analyse and look at prior to the meeting.

Pillar 1 and Pillar 2 Updates

2.  Amongst the documents issued to the group a paper gave the latest updates on pillar 1 and pillar 2.

CAP Flexibilities

3. A query came on the flexibilities being offered by the European Commission to use additional European rural development funds in the pandemic of Covid-19. This is currently just a proposal from the EU Commission, aiming to utilise existing Pillar 2 funds, to allow a one off payment to farmers and or SMEs in light of Covid-19. The grant would be limited to a maximum of €5,000 for farmers and €50,000 for SMEs. This is not new money and most of our Rural Development Programme is committed, and there is a limit of 1% of the EU funds. Any funding must be justified. The proposal is still to be approved by the EU Council and Parliament, so potentially it may change, and there is no timescale on when this may come into force. The proposal will be examined when it is available, and the options explored, but it is important to remember we would have to repurpose funds.

4. It was confirmed that the Private Storage Aid (PSA) which is included in CAP flexibilities are set out directly by EU regulations.

SAF Submission Deadline

5. Submissions of the SAF application forms before the deadline went pretty well and there was stakeholder support to keep to the current deadline for two reasons. These reasons are that we were well ahead in terms of numbers of submissions early on which helped and that to extend the deadline would delay payments coming out until later in the autumn.

6. Delivery colleagues in RPID thanked the industry for embracing the call to submit SAF application early and on time. Meaning that we are up slightly on last year in percentage of SAF Submissions.

7. A reminder was issued to check your acknowledgement letters to make sure all high level information is correct relating to any schemes claimed – as there is a penalty free amendment period until the first of June. Cases that were 1st to 9th June would be reviewed for penalties on case by case basis.

8. Stakeholders provided positive feedback from members to say how helpful the local area offices have been, and very appreciative of the help from area offices. Will pass on the praise. AP 1. Share praise with local area offices.

SRDP Scheme Updates

9. A query was raised around the Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) where activities or construction have not been able to be carried out on the dates required in the application and if there has been any consideration on derogations around this. We are aware of individual cases of people coming forward to their Area Offices and each case is being looked at on an individual case by case basis, but there are no plans to do this on a larger scale.

10. The scheme update table shared with the group is a reflection of where we are within the Programme, and it is important we continue the spend, so we can maximise the drawdown of EU funds. There is slight concern that some capital work may be delayed, and this is being monitored, but the rest of the schemes are progressing as we expect.

11. A stakeholder questioned why the Beef Efficiency Scheme (BES) budget has dropped, any if there was any telling insight as to why it has dropped? It was also mentioned that there is no indication of where that money has gone instead. The drop in the BES budget just reflects the actual spend that is taking place, we continue to have people to drop out of this process and as it was a onetime application process, there has been no option for others to join.

12. Another query came around the Food Processing Marketing and Co-operation (FPMC) grants scheme as there appeared to be £4m in the budget yet the scheme is now officially closed. The scheme requires recipients to commit to spend all the money by March 21. This is not easy for businesses to commit to the level of the investment required, along with getting funding from private sector to get projects to go ahead and the time until that deadline is constantly getting shorter. It is the understanding of Scottish Government (SG) colleagues that FPMC could still potentially have another round this year. AP 2. Follow up with FPMC colleagues, to enquire about a future round.

CAP Simplification and Improvement

13. A note was shared with the group prior to the meeting to provide an update on where SG are in the process of CAP Simplification and Improvement.

14. SG intend to provide a set of options to the Cabinet Secretary with the intention to have a package of simplifications and improvements during the summer. Broadly speaking it will be similar to what was set out in the CAP SIP consultation, just bringing forward these options in more detail. Hope to be able to give something more to stakeholder by the end of the month or early next month.

15. In broad terms there are some priorities – e.g. reducing the harshness of the penalties to make them more proportionate, changing the inspection regime, and capping and also to examine greening, as the overall feeling is it does not work well, and is not a friendly system to farmers. Additionally, want to look at climate change targets as these are key drivers and government commitments as well as trying to aid productivity. It is possible that later in year something will need to introduce to support the sector following, and we are monitoring this situation.

16. The UK Spending Review has been delayed until autumn. This means it is harder to inform the scale and the scope of what we can do, when we do not know what monies we will have. 

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

17. The Bill passed stage 1 in the Scottish parliament on 5 May and now progresses towards stage 2. Information was published on the Bill in the papers sent out along with links.

18. The timetable for stage 2 of the Bill changed due to Covid and stage 2 is currently due to be completed by 26 June. Whilst the Bill remains a priority changes to the parliamentary timetable could change, particularly if there is more pressing Covid matters that get brought forward.

19. A stakeholder highlighted that it is disappointing that UK Government have opened the door to chlorinated chicken, and asked if there is any method to deal with it in Scottish Ag Bill. The Bill includes a section that deals with standards and therefore the potential through secondary legislation to diverge on some standards, but it will depend on how events unfold and what trade deals take place. There is also the wider differences between Ministers, which is more of a political point. If standards diverge because of decisions taken either by DEFRA, or at an EU level, and we have to decide which way to go, the Bill will give us the flexibility to do it.

20. It was raised that the EU Commission going to publish the Farm to Fork strategy today, and asked if this will this affect and link into the Bill. With stakeholders wanting no regression on animal welfare and animal standards. Regression and standards not same, wish to align to EU as close as possible and current government want to re-join at some point. SG position is that it wishes to remain aligned to the EU but that this is best achieved by have the appropriate legislation all in one place in. The intention is for this to be through the continuity bill. We are keen to avoid having non-aligned pieces of legislation and avoid clashing legislation. Further, there is current legislation around environmental standards and animal welfare which has to be adhered to as it is law.

21. The issue of UK frameworks and links to funding was raised. There is an early draft around an agriculture support framework but paused due to covid. Early discussions have been had with UK counterparts however, ministers are not signed up to a framework, but willing for officials to discuss. Collaboration and sharing information seems to be the most likely way forward at the moment, there will be separate undertakings on WTO.  . The Bill gives specific powers to simplify and improve the current retained EU Law and we hope to keep that in place until 2024. If we want to continue the powers as we do at the moment we need the funding as we have now and are continuing to press the UK Government on funding guarantees.

23. An issued was raised on how a stakeholder can answer a member who is working on an FGS scheme at the moment, but knowing it will be impossible due to survey etc, to get approval by the end of this year. Mr Ewing has highlighted that SG are committed to tree planting and it is key to help meet climate change targets, so in principal terms sector should be confident that there is good appetite for it. Ministers are hoping to keep schemes broadly the same for 2021-24 and it is clear forestry is a priority area. However, there is nothing we can say in absolute terms after the end of this year and SG continue to push for funding guarantees..

Farming and Food Production Group

24. The group have had their final meeting on evidence and discussion, and the report is being drafted with the aim to share it  in the summer. 

26. The Cabinet Secretary set up a parallel group chaired by Jim Walker which is being progressed although delayed given the current situation. This was intended to inform our response to the Climate Change Plan update which has been postponed, so the despite the delay this will still allow beef sector issues to inform this.  There is no date yet for this.  

Covid-19 Respond, Reset, Restart and Recovery

27. Business has been ongoing in farms and much of the production chain at various levels throughout the pandemic. However, other businesses especially tourism and food service sector are mainly closed. We are in the process of trying to bring some normality to the programme. More info on SG next steps should be coming out today or tomorrow. It is clear we are not at the same stage as rest of UK as we are driven by our health information and situation is not the same across the UK.

28. Stakeholders asked if they will be able to input into economic recovery group.

A number of SG colleagues are trying to work out how we will feed into this group. The Higgins group have written to a number of stakeholder bodies and we have seen a list of who they have contacted, which we are feeding in to give extra stakeholder contacts. The secretariat is keen to hear from people. AP 3. Circulate contact details for Secretariat Economic Recovery Group.

29. Colleague Fiona Harrison leading on group looking at economic and green recovery. Green recovery being led by climate change officials and economic group will be by other colleague. John and Fiona direct inputters to Mr Ewing and Ms Cunningham’s Restart groups.

Physical Distancing Guidance

30. Working hard to make sure that guidance is in place to allow for the restart of industry and thank people for feeding into that process. Due to this work it has helped to keep livestock marts running etc. Additionally will help to open further businesses when safe to do so.

31. Issue raised that reports from members of PPE shortages, and dust masks in particular. Re-direction of resource to NHS, and what can SG can do about this or offer any advice for members will be useful. AP 4. Feed to colleagues dealing with PPE.

Testing of Eligible Key Workers

32. Five static drive through sites across Scotland and a number of mobile sites that are moving around the country, and ensuring that information on where they are is delivered promptly. It is now the case that anyone over the age of 5 with Symptoms can get a test, so everyone exhibiting symptoms should be tested.

33. SG are posting the locations of the mobile sites in  as many places as we can, coming through our own social media channels e.g. SRN, Rural Matters Facebook page.

Garden Centres

34. To inform the group that the Minister for Rural Affairs and Environment circulated information on garden centres a few weeks ago, so now a bit out dated, but hoping for new information in the coming days.

Skills Matching Service

35. The Prince Charles effect, he made some comments about taking part in the national help to pick fruit, pickers that stick, and bring home the national harvest and has led to uptake in applications. The Lantra skills matching service is working fairly well and enabling people to be matched with vacancies.

36. Ms Gougeon is working with the fruit picking sector and holding and weekly meeting. There have been some flights of Romanian workers, to help harvest soft fruit and veg, especially looked for experienced labour which is greatly needed and helpful.

AOB

37. Thoughts turning a bit more towards Brexit and the exit from the transition period at the end of the year.  An issue was raised around third country equivalence and the impact on those importing and exporting seeds within Scotland and the UK, in particular Northern Ireland. AP 5. Will take up this issue with SASA, with SASA acknowledging that they are happy to discuss this anytime and that there is a lot of work going on around both third country equivalence and the NI protocol.

38. Major announcements from UK Gov have come this week, first the tariff schedule, which we are analysing. Major issue is that if we move to that schedule for dealings with EU and have to adhere to tariff barriers too, that will have major impact on those land based industries in Scotland. The UK Govs negotiating document was also released and is significantly shorter than the EUs, highlighting the difference between the scope and scale from both points of view, issues we are alert to and working through. The UK Gov seems to be pushing on with the Brexit timeline that was outlined pre Covid.

39. Officials are happy to meet with individuals or smaller groups, it that would be helpful.  It may be possible to use other types  of communication e.g. Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams. if hosted by the other side. Will circulate officials mobile numbers if require

40. Next meeting scheduled for Aug 4th, might need to bring forward to discuss Brexit related point, and convene at short notice. Will keep you updated on any Covid issue we have.

Actions

Action

Owner

Completed

1. Share praise with local area offices.

SG

20/5

2. Follow up with FPMC colleagues, to enquire about a future round.

SG

20/5

3. Circulate contact details for Secretariat of the economic recovery group. Andrew.Baird@gov.scot

SG

Included

4. Feed issues with PPE to colleagues dealing with PPE.

SG

20/5

5. Will take up this issue with SASA, with SASA acknowledging that they are happy to discuss this anytime

SASA/Ian Muirhead