Government aims to make subsidy payments by end of year
THE SCOTTISH Government is working towards a target of making farm subsidy payments by the end of the year, despite fears that it will miss this target.
Rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochhead, said: ‘I would like to reassure farmers and crofters that the Scottish Government’s aim is still to begin making basic payments by the end of the year. Our position has not changed, and we continue to work flat out to try to make this happen.
‘ We are implementing the biggest CAP reform in a generation, which is considerably more complex than the former policy, and at the same time moving to area-based payments as required by the EU.
‘As NFUS President Allan Bowie has acknowledged, the NFUS made clear during the CAP negotiations that we had to get the policy decisions right even if that meant more complexity and an impact on timing in the first year.
‘This means we now have around four million one-hectare payment entitlements to issue – covering around 400,000 fields – and around 21,000 Single Application Form applications to process, as well as 1,300 farms to inspect. Like many other administrations across Europe that are in a similar position, the scale of the challenge we are facing here in Scotland is clearly formidable, but the Scottish Government continues to pull out all the stops to be able to make payments as soon as possible.’
He continued: ‘I said in June that we were exploring options, including making payments in two instalments, as the EU regulations permit and as was done at the start of the last CAP reform. That option is very much on the table. The Scottish Government also continues to press the EU Commission for flexibility on the inspection requirements for payments to be made in the normal payment window after December 1, although time is running out for this to be of any benefit.
The minister’s words did little to reassure NFU Scotland’s chief executive, Scott Walker, who said: ‘There is nothing new in this statement by Richard Lochhead. This provides no reassurance to farmers about when they will get paid or how much they will receive.’
Mr Lochhead plans to meet with farming leaders next week, as he explained: ‘I recognise and am sensitive to the cash flow issues facing Scottish agriculture, and so I intend to meet industry representatives on the November 17, where I will update them on the latest situation.’
Mr Walker replied: ‘Our members want clarity and openness from the cabinet secretary on what is the situation regarding payments. Calling a meeting for November 17 means more uncertainty for farmers and those who service our industry before we receive more news.’
The EU payment window runs from 1 December to June. Just over 21,000 Single Application Forms were received by the Scottish Government, of which around 19,160 include claims for the Basic and Greening payments.
Rural affairs secretary,