WE HAVE to collapse pillar one and pillar two payments and start again from scratch, with a singular model which covers all sectors of Scottish agriculture.

This was the unified message to come out of an engaging morning panel session at the NFUS Autumn Conference discussing the farmer led model for delivering future support.

SRUC economist Steven Thomson suggested that there needed to be a single support model which allows Scotland to differentiate from its UK counterparts and balance the outcomes of climate, biodiversity, and food production.

“We believe that there still needs to be disadvantaged support. The further you are from your supply chains, the most support you actually need in terms of payments,” he said, adding that this might be in the form of LFASS payments. However he argued that we need to rethink this model and perhaps exchange it for a top-up to direct income support, to move away from having separate schemes.

“We also think there is a need for transformative support to help farmers to really adjust to the new system and while we still have Convergence, Bew, and Transformation pots, we need to use that money blooming wisely so we can actually take the industry forward, as we all need to go on this journey towards greener food production.”

He added that at the top of the payment pyramid there would be a need for targeted support for areas such as forestry, peatlands, and biodiversity.

NFUS’ policy manager Jonnie Hall recognised that there would be huge change ahead for the agricultural industry: “It is a long way from where we are today from our pillar one support and our very disconnected pillar two stuff around rural development and the environment,” he said. “We have to collapse those pillars and start to build up payments from the bottom, not forgetting in Scotland there is still a significant requirement for direct support – that differentiates us certainly from England and largely from the rest of the UK.”

All panellists were clear in their message that future farming payments must recognise those farmers and crofters who are already delivering on environmental and biodiversity outcomes.

“There is an issue around whether we should be paying farmers and crofters for what they do to improve or for what they have already attained, as some people are already achieving at the level they are expected to,” said Andrew Moxley. “It is attainment that we value as a society.”

Mr. Hall added that there has to be flexibility in the future model to account for all levels of farming and crofting. “There needs to be significant flexibility in the system and the standards that we are putting in the conditionality that are a fit for your system, in your location,” he addressed members in the room. “It needs to cover the smallest crofter in the western isles to the biggest dairy farmers in the south, and everything in between.

“We need meaningful conditions and environmental conditionality that are fit for purpose. If we do that, farmers will believe that they can actually make those changes, that they have a choice in what changes they make and will then take that step forward,” he concluded.