Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing has written to Secretary of State at DEFRA Theresa Villiers calling for the ring-fenced pot of levy monies to be doubled. This is to take account of the loss of expected money from an agreed statutory mechanism to devolve the red meat levy.
This was included in the UK Government’s Agriculture Bill which is now having to be re-introduced – with no guarantee as yet that this measure will now be included in the new version of the Bill.
With the current ring-fenced money limited to £2 million, and little chance of the previously agreed formal repatriation scheme being in place by April 2020, Mr Ewing is calling for increases to ensure the scheme is adequately funded. This would ensure that QMS has appropriate funding to spend on the range of work carried out including, marketing and promoting Scotland’s quality red meat in the coming year.
Full text of the letter below.
I am writing to seek your agreement to increase the red meat levy ring fenced funding pot.
You will be aware there has been previous Ministerial agreement that red meat levies should be repatriated between the levy bodies to give a true reflection of where animals are born, reared and slaughtered. It was agreed that primary legislation was required to allow this and that it was to be delivered through the UK Agriculture Bill.
Whilst I have always remained concerned about the continual delay of its passage through the UK Parliament, now that it appears the Bill is likely to fall in its entirety it is wholly appropriate that I seek to ensure that Scottish producers and our red meat industry are not disadvantaged further.
In expectation of the required powers the three levy bodies – AHDB, HCC and QMS – have been working on potential scheme mechanisms. This joint work shows that appropriate levels of repatriation could see QMS receiving approximately £1.5 – 2 million a year in levy money from AHDB based on current animal movements. A similar figure may be due to HCC.
Given that the current ring fenced funding pot is limited at £2 million and that there is very little chance of introducing a formal repatriation scheme by April 2020 as planned, it would seem appropriate not only to continue with the ring fenced funding for at least another year but that the pot is increased to make up for the loss QMS, and therefore the Scottish industry, will experience as a result.
Therefore in lieu of any positive movement on the UK agriculture Bill I look forward to your agreement that the levy pot should be increased and would suggest it is doubled to £4 million based on the work carried out by the levy bodies. Such an increase will in part enable the three bodies to continue to work together to mitigate the various and serious issues currently facing the red meat sector and better reflect the value of what a proper repatriation scheme would deliver.