Still time to apply for farm support advance loans

Farmers are being urged to apply for the Government loans. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Farmers are being urged to apply for the Government loans. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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The Scottish Government has encouraged any farmer who had not applied for an advance loan on their expected support payments to do so even if the original deadline has passed.

The loan scheme, which was estimated to put up to £300 million into the rural economy, was announced earlier this autumn by cabinet secretary Fergus Ewing.

The industry has lost all confidence in the SNP on this issue

Peter Chapman

The Government reckoned that up to 18,000 farmers and crofters could be eligible for the advance cash, which is free from interest and which would be deducted from their actual support payment when it is paid.

READ MORE: Loans aim to bridge gap for missing farm support

A spokesman said, “Over 12,500 eligible farmers and crofters have now applied for and received a loan based on 80 per cent of their estimated entitlement for 2016 basic payment and greening payments up to a maximum of €150,000 (£127,000). So far the money advanced has amounted to £256.5m.

“We are pleased with the significant response so far but want all eligible farmers and crofters to benefit. The scheme remains open and we are doing all we can to encourage all remaining farmers to take up the offer of a loan, which is essentially an advance payment on 2016 entitlement.

“The money will not only help farm business incomes, but is also helping to provide a welcome boost to the rural economy and communities over these winter months.”

However, due to what the spokesman described as “an administrative error”, some 166 farm businesses have been over-paid and have now been contacted by the government requesting the excess money is repaid.

The spokesman stressed: “Steps have been taken to rectify the cause of this error, which is not related to the IT system, and minimise the risk of it happening again.”

Peter Chapman, shadow secretary for rural economy and connectivity for the Conservative Party, described the mistake and the fact the Government wanted the cash repaid within seven days as the latest in “an unprecedented catalogue of blunders on farm payments” by the SNP.

“I think it would be fair to say that the industry has lost all confidence in the SNP on this issue,” he said.

The loan was intended to take the heat off the malfunctioning computer which was installed at a cost of around £180m to deliver all the Scottish farm support payments but which has singularly failed to meet timetable targets.

In response to a query on when the actual payments for 2016 would commence, the spokesman said, “We expect these payments to be made by the end of the payment period, namely by the end of June.”

All you ever need to know is here…

With an average of more than 20 facts per page, the 450-page SAC Farm Management Handbook, which has just been published, has more than a million pieces of information covering just about every aspect of farming in Scotland.

This is the 37th edition of this iconic handbook for farmers planning their businesses and, echoing the complex and turbulent times, it offers them more information and greater accessibility.

At its core there is financial information including detailed gross margins for livestock, arable, forage and organic enterprises. All of those costs and prices have been updated.

With a number of farmers now owning wind turbines, anaerobic digesters and hydro schemes, there is detailed information on renewable energy, diversification projects.

In addition, the sections on labour, machinery, rural aid, taxation, contracting charges, buildings, forestry and credit have been updated.

New features include guidance for new entrants on starting up a farm or crofting business.

There is an overview of the latest land tenure arrangements, plus a wider range of diversification enterprises and guidance on the UK’s various Rural Aid Schemes.

For the first time the publication from Scotland’s Rural College is available online. With support from the Scottish Government’s Farm Advisory Service, the online versions are free.

For those not qualifying for the Scottish Farm Advisory Service, or who want a printed copy, it is available at a cost of £25 plus postage and packaging. To order, or for more information, visit www.sac.co.uk/fmh or call the Rural Business Unit on 0131 603 7525.

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