NFU Scotland seeks cash support
A policy document calling for the retention of a long-standing support scheme for those farming in some of Scotland’s most remote and challenging areas was launched yesterday.
And NFU Scotland called on the Scottish Government to recognise the key role played by farmers in the Less Favoured Areas in not only maintaining economic activity but also in promoting biodiversity, maintaining carbon retention in grasslands and managing the landscape.
Stating that the sector accounted for 86 percent of Scotland’s agricultural land, the document said LFA agriculture was “the backbone” of Scotland’s sustainable red meat industry.
“In addition, it is critical in the delivery of the rural economy, local jobs, world-famous landscapes and biodiversity, carbon sequestration and storage, thriving communities and cultural heritage.”
With the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) £65 million budget already under threat and the future of the scheme itself in jeopardy without swift action from the Scottish Government, the union said that its loss would be devastating for the hill sector.
Stating that sticking to the roll-over of EU rules would see the scheme axed next year, union president Andrew McCornick called on the Scottish Government to use its powers under the new Scottish Agriculture Bill to retain the scheme.
“To ensure precious funds are targeted at active businesses delivering for Scotland’s rural and remote areas, we have also outlined necessary changes to the beef calf scheme (SSBSS) and the ewe hogg scheme (SUSSS).”
However the union admitted that while ScotGov had indicated that it wanted to maintain the budget at £65 million this year, where the funding would come from remained unclear. Previously around 75 per cent came from the EU with the rest coming out of ScotGov coffers.
Despite EU cuts last year, the scheme was propped up by payments from the first half of the £160 million convergence fund which was meant to compensate all Scottish producers for the UK Government’s previously unfair allocation of EU funds.
This move had angered the union as it claimed the funds should have been spread across the whole of Scottish agriculture rather than being focused on the hill sector.
Speaking yesterday the union’s Jonnie Hall said that while it was likely the remaining £70 million in this pot would be used to the same end once again, the union maintained its stance that by rights these funds should be paid across all claimants - and that new money should be found for the LFASS scheme.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said the Scottish Government was committed to supporting all producers, including those in remote and fragile areas.
The 2020 LFA payment was, he said, set to retained at 40 per cent of the 2018 payment rates, but he added that while distribution of the second tranche of the convergence cash was still under discussion, ScotGov wanted to ensure that the level of support for those farming in the upland and most challenging areas was maintained
And he added that ScotGov continued to press the UK Government for a clear statement on future funding for all aspects of farm support.