How coupled payments make a difference
The last CAP reform allowed the devolved administrations to make 'coupled' payments in addition to the basic payment for particular schemes. A case in point is the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme where payments to farmers have just started. It was originally envisaged that they would receive €100 per hog ewe, but demand for the scheme has reduced the payment to €78.12, still a significant amount, particularly given the falling value of the pound.
I have just returned from a visit to Orkney which is traditionally a beef area, although there are dairy herds which, among other things, supply the Orkney cheddar cheese factory which is a protected 'geographical indication'. I was surprised by the growth in sheep numbers, but the coupled payment could help to explain it.
The scheme is devised for rough grazing areas and is intended to protect the social and environmental benefits that sheep bring to those areas. There is also a Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme. Beef accounts for 22 per cent of Scottish agricultural output over the last ten years.
The farming community in Orkney seems to be in good heart, with their own specialist and informative magazine, The Orkney Farmer.
Some land in Orkney, notably on the island of Hoy, is not even suitable for rough grazing.