£56m cash lifeline for farmers

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MORE than 10,000 hill farmers will see a boost in their bank balances this Friday with the Scottish Government paying out some £56 million under the less favoured areas support scheme (LFASS).

Speaking after making the announcement which covers 86 per cent of the total due under the scheme, rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead, pictured, said he was sure the payments would be welcomed as they would inject badly needed funds into rural communities

“Poor weather and rising costs have combined to make these challenging times for Scotland’s farmers and crofters – that’s even more true for those working in areas of natural disadvantage,” he said.

For those missing the initial tranche of cash, Lochhead promised officials would continue to work hard to ensure the remaining payments were made as quickly as possible as it was recognised that support payments such as LFASS and single farm payments provided vital cash for many of Scotland’s farm businesses. Last night, NFU Scotland welcomed the payments, its director of policy and regions Jonnie Hall ,saying: “The delivery of this support is always a relief for farmers and crofters, but never more so than this year.”

He claimed many hill farmers were still suffering the legacy of last year’s weather which left many of hill and upland farmers with feed and fodder bills that they had not budgeted for.

Looking forward, Hall asked for a clear commitment from the government that the LFASS would continue to roll over until such times as the terms of a new areas of natural constraint were agreed.

“That commitment would provide an anchor of security to many Scottish farm businesses at a time when the delivery of direct support through Pillar One of the CAP has yet to be decided,” he continued.

“The shift to an area-based single farm payment in the future will bring a period of flux and transition during which time a stable LFASS would be hugely welcome.”