Unnecessary delays by the Scottish Government have put Scottish farmers at an extreme disadvantage over greening rules for the next two years, according to a leading rural land expert.

Mark Mitchell, Director of rural land management at Bell Ingram, said Scottish Government 'took their eye of the ball' in failing to complete the necessary negotiations for greening ahead of the August 1 deadline.

This means that throughout 2015 Scottish farmers must comply with Europe's standard greening measures and wait until 2016 at the earliest until an equivalence scheme can be established – at complete odds to the position in England.

Mark, a specialist in all aspects of estate and facilities management for both private and commercial clients, said:

"With the Independence debate rightly hogging the headlines, the day to day business of running our farming businesses has perhaps been overlooked.

Scotland pasture (PD)"In June, the Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead gave us the outline of how the Scottish Government intend to apply the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) from 1st January 2015 when we will witness the death of the Single Farm Payment Scheme (SFP) and the birth of the Basic Payment Scheme (BS).

"What is incredibly annoying is that while our southern cousins have clarity on the greening requirements, the Scottish Government has taken their eye off the ball and missed the 1st August 2014 deadline to complete the necessary negotiations.

"It means our farmers must comply with Europe's standard greening measures for the whole of 2015; and wait until 2016 at the earliest until an equivalence scheme can be established in Scotland.

"So while it is good news that at last the Scottish Government is rolling out the information to us on the changes to CAP, it has taken far too long to happen.

"The information is being distributed far too late in the year and in marked contrast to 2005 when the roll out of the SFP was completed in plenty of time to allow farmers to plan ahead and were not receiving the information after autumn cropping plans had been made and in some case crops themselves had been established."

Mark added that as a result of the delays the greening position for Scottish farmers in 2015 will result in the need to:-

• Maintain existing permanent pasture, which really means that at a national level we must maintained the area of permanent pasture at the area recorded in 2012.

• Apply crop diversification on arable land, or what is commonly known as the three crop rule, which means that farms with more than 30 hectares of arable land must grow three different crops. The main crop must not exceed 75% and the two main crops can't account for more than 95% of the arable area.

• Establish Ecological Focus Areas (EFA). Sounds a bit like set aside to me, but needs to be at least 5% of the arable areas and can include such items as fallow fields, water margins, field margins, catch crops and nitrogen fixing crops.

Established in 1899, Bell Ingram is a multi disciplined firm of chartered surveyors, forestry managers, estate agents, architects, building surveyors and energy specialists. With more than 130 professional staff across 11 UK offices the firm provides local knowledge with national coverage.

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