Jean has welcomed government proposals on implementing the new Common Agricultural Policy in Scotland.
She praised ministers’ efforts to put “wellies before slippers” by targeting support towards active farmers and away from wealthy owners of unfarmed land, and extend extra assistance to new entrants to farming and to island beef farmers.
The plans were announced to MSPs in a statement by Rural Affairs minister Richard Lochhead on Wednesday.
“Richard Lochhead has shown a real ‘wellies before slippers’ attitude, putting working farmers first and tackling the exploitation of subsidies by wealthy absentee landlords.
“The decision to cap payments at £400,000 puts an end to million-pound payouts to the very wealthiest landowners, making more available for smaller farms with bigger needs.
“The ‘Scottish Clause’, which cuts off direct payments for land with no farming activity on it, means we will no longer subsidise the ‘slipper farmers’ who claim grants for simply owning vacant land. And shooting estates which do not genuinely farm the land will no longer be able to claim funds intended for farmers. These welcome moves support working farmers and create jobs by incentivising bringing unused land back into production.
“I welcome particularly the extra help available to new entrants, the future of farming. They can now look forward to finally getting equal treatment from 2019, and in the meantime will get additional funds from the national reserve, and start-up grants of up to €70,000.
“The centralisation of slaughterhouses and associated transport costs mean that island beef farmers have been squeezed hard. I’m delighted that Mr Lochhead has not only won the fight with Whitehall to keep production-linked support across Scottish beef farming, but added a €65 per calf to-up for the islands.
“We heard only yesterday that Scotland is falling short in our ambitious efforts to tackle climate change, so I’m pleased to see mandatory fertiliser planning for grasslands, which can reduce carbon emissions, improve water quality and increase profitability.
“All in all, these policies are a remarkable achievement given the funding cuts imposed by both the EU and UK, and the balancing act of serving the fantastically diverse but often vulnerable Scottish farming community.”