New Rural Support Scheme development - evidence: outputs summary

This synthesis report covers twelve written reports providing evidence reviews, analysis, summaries and expert briefings on agriculture in Scotland to shape future policy to help deliver sustainable food production that tackles climate change and nature restoration.

W11 Conceptual delivery approach for Tier 2 enhanced conditionality of agricultural support in Scotland

Authors: Steven Thomson and Andrew Moxey

Ref: RESAS/005/21 – W11

The Report is available in the supporting documents of this publication.

Key Points

The Scottish Government has committed to 50% of direct area payments being attached to enhanced conditionalities under Tier 2 of a 4-Tier model.

The use of conditionalities within a tiered model echoes developments within the EU under the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), but also recommendations made previously within Scotland. This serves as a reminder that current deliberations are re-treading familiar policy territory.

For example, the 2019 Griggs Review of Greening plus publications from the National Farmers Union of Scotland and the Scottish Wildlife Trusts all proposed multiple tiers, with non-competitive elements available to all land managers and higher tiers with more demanding requirements but higher payment rates.

Similarly, suggestions for possible measures (and their relative positioning within Tiers) have also been made through various fora, including Farming for 1.5o and the various Farmer-led groups. In all cases, there is a high degree of similarity across recommendations.

Inspection of the types of conditionalities envisaged reveals a distinction between those applicable to cropped land (i.e., arable and temporary grass), improved grassland, and rough grazing (other, generic planning and training actions are less land cover specific). This suggests that Tiered payments should be differentiated across these three broad categories of land cover, to avoid very different requirements being attached to identical payment rates. An obvious way of implementing this would be to revise the current 3-region payment model by merging R2 and R3 into a new, merged rough grazing region and splitting R1 into a cropped land region and an improved grassland region (LFA and Voluntary Coupled Support could be kept separate or folded into such a 3-region model).

Moreover, to reflect the relative prioritisation given to different policy objectives, individual measures could be weighted differentially within each region. This concept is already familiar from Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) on arable land under the (old) Common Agricultural Policy – and there is existing delivery structure in place within RPID that could be expanded. Extending the approach to other land cover regions would increase opportunities for targeting and on-going adjustment in response to shifting priorities or relative uptake rates of different measures. Although best suited to land management actions, the EFA-approach could also include livestock management measures if translated into equivalent area weights.

Importantly, a 3-region payment model with differentiated payment rates and weighting by relative priority is broadly compatible with current administrative systems as well as being familiar to farmers and crofters.

Implementation would require agreement on relative priorities and the relevance of individual measures. This could entail explicit and transparent scoring of measures but, given that judgements about weightings need to be made in some way, this is arguably better than leaving them as implicit and/or hidden.



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