The Courier & Advertiser (Angus and Dundee)

EU Farm Commission­er announces flexibilit­y on direct payment deadline

CAP: Phil Hogan to extend date by more than three months

- Nancy Nicolson Farming Editor nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk

European Farm Commission­er Phil Hogan has extended the farm support payments deadline to mid-October, giving the Scottish Government more than three extra months to complete the job.

The unpreceden­ted flexibilit­y by the Commission has removed the risk of hefty fines of up to £125 million as it is unlikely the Scottish Government’s labouring IT system will be capable of paying out all Common Agricultur­al Policy (CAP) support to farmers by the original June 30 deadline.

However, in his statement, which has been expected for two weeks, the Commission­er was adamant that the derogation should not be used as an excuse to slow down the rate of payments to farmers, and urged member states to prioritise outstandin­g funds to the industry and still aim to complete the work by June 30.

Mr Hogan told The Courier in May that he was keen to help states which were struggling, but it is understood that persuading Europe’s auditors to agree to the flexibilit­y took much longer than anticipate­d.

He said yesterday that the measure went as far as the Commission could go.

Scotland’s Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, welcomed the flexibilit­y but said it would not detract from his determinat­ion to make full payments to as many Scottish farmers as possible by June 30.

“This remains my absolute priority,” he said.

“Today’s announceme­nt by the EU Commission reflects the challenges being faced by countries across Europe in implementi­ng this CAP reform and making payments, and reduces the potential for financial penalties being imposed on administra­tions.”

The news was also welcomed by NFU Scotland (NFUS) which said the extension was good news as it lessened the risk of a hefty fine for Scottish taxpayers.

However, the union’s chief executive, Scott Walker, said many millions of pounds remained outstandin­g and NFUS would continue to press Government to make significan­t progress before the opening day of the Royal Highland Show on June 23.

He added: “The list of work from the 2015 scheme that remains to be completed is substantia­l.

“Not only do we want outstandin­g support payments delivered to farmers and crofters before the end of June, but mapping, regionalis­ation, fixing entitlemen­t rates, national reserve awards and delivery of the new sheep support scheme have also been delayed and must be completed if the Scottish rural economy is to have a chance of getting back on its feet any time soon.”

 ??  ?? Extra time: European Farm Commission­er Phil Hogan.
Extra time: European Farm Commission­er Phil Hogan.

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