Signs that other areas of rural support look set to get caught up in the chaos surrounding the delivery of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) led to yet another stinging attack on the Scottish Government’s performance yesterday.
Revelations that those applying for 2015 agri-environment payments had not yet been told if their bids had been successful raised fears that other schemes such as the less favoured area support scheme and the coupled support schemes for beef calves and ewe hogs could also be hit.
Calling for a clear and definitive statement to be made on when producers could expect payments, NFUS president Allan Bowie said that, on top of the severe cash-flow pressures producers were currently facing, the continued delays and uncertainty were deplorable.
Accepting that Scottish Government staff were working flat out on the issue, he stressed that there was, nevertheless, an overwhelming need to get a clear message out to farmers on when the delays were going to be resolved.
“The catalogue of scheme delays as a result of ongoing IT failure is lengthening and the need for a clarifying statement from Scottish Government becomes more urgent,” Bowie said.
“The important agri-environment scheme is the latest casualty and despite having a relatively small number of claims for the 2015 scheme to process, many of which are straightforward reinstatements of expired agreements, the system has failed to cope.”
In response, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead disclosed that a second farm support payment run had already been actioned by the Government, stating that the payments should reach the bank accounts of “around 1,000 farmers” within days.
He also said that he was still aiming to pay the majority of farmers and crofters by the end of January.
However, even on top of the 3,500 producers paid before the end of December, the second payment run fails to reach the “quarter of all producers paid by the end of the year” promise made in November.
• South of the Border, the Rural Payments Agency this week said that around 57,700 farmers – roughly two-thirds of applicants – had received their BPS payments. The figure included the recent tranche of £320 million to 11,300 farmers – a payment run which took the total amount support reaching farmers in England since the start of December’s payment window to £779m.