Scotland’s farmers face a payment run lottery after the Scottish Government finally announced its plans for delivering CAP support.
After months of repeated requests from NFU Scotland to provide details on when Scottish farmers and crofters could expect delivery of the new Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) into rapidly-emptying bank accounts, and receive information on what the value of those payments would be, the Scottish Government plans will come as a bitter disappointment and leave all unclear on when support will eventually arrive.
Scottish Government has announced that payments under the new BPS are to be made in two instalments of 70 percent and 30 percent. However, only a quarter of Scottish farmers will receive their first instalment by the end of December; the majority will receive their 70 percent part-payment by the end of January and some will not receive the first tranche of BPS until the end of March. The balance payment of 30 percent is to be delivered to all by the end of April, just a few short weeks before Scotland’s farmers and crofters will be expected to submit their claim forms for the 2016 scheme.
With Scotland’s investment of £180 million in a computer delivery system - costing nearly £10,000 per BPS application - clearly failing, NFU Scotland is calling for Scottish Government to give categorical assurances that failures to deliver direct support will have no knock-on effects on the delivery of other vital schemes including Less Favoured Areas support, beef calf and ewe hogg coupled schemes and agri-environment application approvals.
Speaking at AgriScot, a major agricultural event held annually at Ingliston, near Edinburgh, NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “For some considerable time, NFU Scotland has informed the industry that Scotland’s traditional payment timetable would not be met and now the Cabinet Secretary has come clean on what is likely to be delivered.
“NFU Scotland has been given a clear mandate by its membership that the only acceptable outcome for delivery of the new BPS was for at least 90 percent of claimants to receive at least 90 percent of their funding by mid-January 2016. With this announcement, we are a long way short of what farmers and crofters need and, given the hugely difficult year, disappointment in this timetable will be immense.
“The installation of a flawed computer payment system, and the lumbered approach to delivery, consigns farmers and crofters to a payment run lottery in which they may know what level of payment they will receive, but they have no idea if they will get it in December, January, February or March. That is categorically unacceptable and does nothing to assist those who face huge challenges to their cashflows this winter, regardless of what sector of agriculture they are in.
“Scottish farmers want to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and weather this storm together. Given that the Scottish Government will inform all applicants of the value of their BPS payment by mid-December; our justifiable demand is for the vast majority of producers to receive the vast majority of their payment in January 2016 and let us move on as a united industry. We need Scottish Government to answer why that can’t be the case.”
Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said: “Against the difficult background of these complex EU reforms, the Scottish Government is on track to begin making direct farm payments in December - with the first payments due to start reaching bank accounts by the end of the year. As happened when Single Farm Payments were introduced back in 2005, Scottish farmers will receive this year’s direct funding in two instalments, with the initial payment worth a minimum of 70 per cent of the total value – and if we can pay more, we will. This is the first year of the new CAP reform we are implementing and it’s the biggest and most complex reform in a generation.
“There can be no doubt the three payment regions and coupled support schemes requested by industry – as well as the move to area-based payments required by Europe – have greatly added to our enormous administrative challenge but the message I always got was that this is a price worth paying to deliver a better policy for Scotland.”