David Stephen v Scottish Ministers SLC/32/07
23 September 2008
Under the common agricultural policy of the European Union, farmers are able to claim various farming subsidies. One such subsidy was suckler cow premium. After the BSE crisis, the beef market tumbled and the EU authorities took steps to try to reduce the number of bovine animals in the EU. One step taken was to introduce a rule into suckler cow premium that there be a minimum of 5% of heifers in a UK claim. The idea was that farmers would be encouraged to keep fewer suckler cows, meaning there would be fewer calves, and accordingly overall bovine numbers would fall. If the minimum requirement of heifers in a claim was not met, farmers could lose significant amounts of subsidy.
A number of farmers failed to comply with the 5% rule, often because they failed to replace heifers which calved and to notify replacement animals to the authorities. Consequently they lost subsidy, so many appealed. A test case was identified and other cases sisted to await its outcome. The challenges in the test case were wide ranging, but included aspects of interpretation of EU legislation, application of the principles of legal certainty and proportionality, and the issue of references to the European Court of Justice. Ultimately the Land Court found against the farmer.
Anna Poole of Axiom Advocates acted for the Scottish Ministers, who were successful in the action. The full decision can be accessed at:-
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