Question S4O-00684: Support for Dairy Farmers

Bill Walker: To ask the Scottish Government what measures are in place to support dairy farmers.

Current Status: Taken in the Chamber on 19/01/2012

Richard Lochhead (Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment): The Scottish Government provides £43 million of support to Scottish dairy farmers each year under the single farm payment scheme. Additionally, the cumulative total amount of support that the Scottish Government has provided under all elements of the Scotland rural development programme since 2007 now stands at £40 million.

Bill Walker: Recently, two farmers in my west Fife constituency of Dunfermline stopped milk production for economic reasons. Does the cabinet secretary agree that, for Scottish farmers to get a fair go at European import markets, a Scottish voice must be heard at all European Union negotiations and discussions, in light of the EU regulations that restrict internal, export and import markets?

Richard Lochhead: That is certainly one area in which it would be helpful for Scotland to have its own voice at the top table in Europe. There are many others, of course, that would also help our dairy farmers. For example, they have taken a close interest for a long time in labelling issues, which are reserved to the UK Government in some contexts and to Europe in others. If we had a voice, we would be able to influence those issues more than we do at present.

There are many other issues, not least the fact that we want to safeguard the single farm payment for the dairy businesses in Scotland that benefit from it. The UK Government would rather that the common agricultural policy budget was slashed, and I note that the Labour Party supported that position in the House of Commons in the past few weeks, which is disappointing. If the single farm payment was not making its way to many dairy businesses in Scotland, they would face severe financial difficulties. We need a voice for Scottish farming in order to protect our exports.

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