NFU Scotland has welcomed news that the country’s hard-pressed farmers will receive up to £200 million in Scottish Government support to overcome delays in paying EU subsidies.
First minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement on Tuesday ahead of a meeting with NFUS president Allan Bowie in Edinburgh.
The government’s pledge means that any farmer who has not received the first instalment of their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payment by the end of this month will automatically receive a cash advance equivalent to 80 per cent of their CAP claim.
Problems with a new IT system set up to administer the reformed CAP in Scotland meant that by the start of this week, less than 60 per cent of eligible claims had been processed.
Mr Bowie said: “For months, NFU Scotland has been looking for focussed thinking and clear leadership from Scottish Government to resolve this farm payments crisis for the benefit of the whole rural economy.
“We welcome the First Minister’s involvement and intervention and finally we have clear timelines drawn when all basic payment scheme claimants will receive the majority of their claims; when hill farmers and crofters will receive the majority of their Less Favoured Areas scheme money and beef payments have been promised in mid-April.
“That meets many of the demands that NFU Scotland has raised with Scottish Government as a direct result of the cash flow crisis that has emerged in recent months. I praise the efforts of all those farmers, crofters and trade representatives who have taken time to brief politicians in the past few weeks.”
The reformed CAP bases farming subsidies on the type of land farmed and the type of agricultural products which are produced, and replaces the old Single Farm Payments with a Basic Payment Scheme.
The new policy also makes payments to farmers based on sustainable agricultural practices, more commonly known as ‘greening’.
“The flawed IT system to deliver CAP payments, funded by £180 million of taxpayers’ money, desperately needs to be addressed and investigated and that must happen in due course. Not least, because the 2016 scheme is expected to open for electronic applications in a few days’ time.
“Right now, let’s focus on getting this vital money into circulation, fill the £300 million hole that has been created in Scotland’s rural economy and let’s get Scotland’s farmers and crofters back to the job of producing food and doing business again with all those trades that rely on a thriving agricultural sector.”