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Scotland union continues to press on payments as challenges continue for farmers and crofters

Staff Writer |
Farmers and crofters across Scotland have experienced one of the most unpredictable and challenging eighteen months in memory. For some still awaiting 2017 payments, that support is increasingly in need to safeguard their businesses.

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Many are still waiting for 2017 payments under a variety of Scottish Rural Development Programme (Pillar 2) schemes, including the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS), Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS), Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS), Rural Priorities (RPs) and Land Managers’ Options (LMOs).

These payments may not always add up to those of the mainstream agricultural support of Pillar 1 payments, but for farmers and crofters whose margins are extremely tight, especially through the additional costs driven by the extended adverse weather, they can be vital for cash flow and keeping businesses afloat.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “Although a good amount of payments have been made, and payments have started across all schemes, for those individuals with outstanding sums due we must pull out all the stops to ensure that all payments are made in full as soon as possible.

“A farmer or crofter who may not have received Pillar 2 payments over the last two years could now be finding themselves with a serious cash flow problem, especially after the winter and summer we have had.

“LFASS payments can be a large chunk of overall support for many in more disadvantaged areas – who face spiralling costs and flat-lining returns at best. Outstanding payments at this time of year can seriously hinder how they are able to plan for the coming winter and spring – undermining efforts to become more resilient.

“Many of the environmental and forestry schemes require initial investment from farmers before payments can be made. We are concerned that if farmers and crofters see expensive initial outlays and uncertain payments schedules, then there will be less enthusiasm to engage in measures that are intended to deliver public benefits – and which make a real difference to the local rural economy.

“It is important that these payments are made sooner rather than later, not just for the farmers and crofters but also for Scotland’s wider rural communities.

“When farmers are properly supported, the positive impact is felt throughout surrounding areas with businesses such farm shops, fencers and mechanics all reaping the benefits.”

NFU Scotland has called for Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing to hold LFA support at current levels during Grantown-on-Spey meeting

NFU Scotland has deemed any cut to lifeline Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments as unacceptable. LFA farmers and crofters are set to see their vital payments cut by 20 per cent in 2019, followed by a possible 80 per cent cut in 2020, with complete uncertainty from then on.

The Scottish Government has said it is unable to provide any certainty beyond 2019 and put this down to a lack of clear assurances from the UK Government on post-Brexit guarantees.

It is NFU Scotland’s position that the LFASS payments are vital to Scottish farming and crofting businesses, and the Scottish Government needs to continue to provide support at its current level of £65 million through 2019 and 2020.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP attended to today’s (Thursday 30 August) LFASS Committee meeting in Grantown-on-Spey to hear first hand from the Union’s LFA representatives and discuss possible solutions to make up any enforced shortfall in LFASS payments directly to those farmers and crofters who deliver so much via this lifeline support.

In a separate meeting, Mr Ewing also met with members of the Union’s

rofting, Highlands and Islands committee. NFU Scotland LFA Committee Chairman Robert Macdonald said: “It was good to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to the meeting today and hear directly from farmers and crofters on just how these proposed cuts will affect them, their businesses and their communities.

“LFASS payments provide a vital financial boost to farmers and crofters who are trying forge a living out of some of the hardest land in the country. For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses but also for the natural environments which they tend to.

“We have made Mr Ewing fully aware of our concerns today and he has been

iven a great deal of food for thought as he returns to Holyrood.” NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick, who attended today’s meeting, said: “Farmers and crofters in these disadvantaged areas provide a vast array of economic, environmental and social benefits to not only their local communities but also Scotland as a whole.

“The essential LFASS payment does not just support farmers and crofters in rural areas but also the surrounding communities, getting reinvested into local businesses and almost immediately supporting the rural economy, providing employment and opportunities.

“The difficult weather over the last 18 months and the added costs which farmers and crofters have had to pay for bedding and fodder has only vindicated the Union’s position that the LFASS payments are absolutely vital and any cut in them must be avoided at all costs. This is a message we must continue to take to our political representatives.”

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