A vote in the European Parliament on Wednesday rejected the views of the Parliament's own agricultural committee and will now see a ban on the use of Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on Ecological Focus Areas (EFAs) become effective for claim year 2018.

The plan to ban PPPs on EFA crops had been strongly opposed by NFU Scotland, fellow farming unions and several member states - a position that was accepted by the agri-committee of the European Parliament two weeks ago.

In a vote at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, a majority of the MEPs who voted followed the lead of their committee. Unfortunately, with 78 MEPs not present at the vote, the 376 who voted in favour fell short of the required absolute majority.

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While there are many other elements in the CAP simplification proposals for Greening rules that could benefit Scottish farmers, NFUS points out that the onus is now on Scottish Government as to whether these will be adopted.

NFUS' understanding is that Professor Russel Griggs' Group has already made recommendations concerning greening changes announced by Cabinet Secretary in February. The Group should now also be able to consider implementation of the changes agreed in Brussels this week. Decisions need to be made very soon, as farmers are already planning their land use and cropping for 2018.

Speaking from Brussels, NFUS President Andrew McCornick said that the vote waters down the genuine simplification benefits that could have been delivered and will make life more difficult for Scottish farmers, not easier.

Mr McCornick went on: "The ban does have implications for autumn sown NFCs (nitrogen fixing crops), for example peas and beans that could be sown this autumn to be claimed on the 2018 Single Application Form as EFA NFC.

"Clarification is still needed on whether PPPs can be used during the establishment of these crops and whether the rules on spot application of PPPs on EFA fallow will be affected."

Market round-up

Messrs Craig Wilson Ltd sold 86 store heifers at Ayr on Thursday to a top of £1305 per head and 251.7p per kg to average £890.52 and 226.4p (-3.2p on the fortnight), while 102 store, beef-bred bullocks peaked at £1540 and 276.4p to level at £926.64 and 236.1p (+0.7p). Thirty-six store, B&W bullocks averaged £697.27 and 157.9p (-3.1p).

Harrison & Hetherington Ltd sold 17 store heifers in St Boswells on Thursday to average 211.3p and 15 store bullocks to level at 237.8p.

C&D Auction Marts Ltd sold 2706 prime lambs in Longtown on Thursday to a top of £132 per head and 303p per kg to average 234p (-24.8p on the week), while 984 prime hoggs peaked at £124 and 230p to level at 187.5p(+1.1p).

The firm also had 3434 cast sheep forward when heavy ewes sold to £149 for Texels and averaged £90.61 (+£1.94), while light ewes peaked at £78 for Blackfaces and levelled at £57.35 (+£2.28). Rams sold to £140 for a Beltex and averaged £95.71.