Farm payment clashes spark call for process reform

NFU Scotland chief Scott Walker said the deadline clash should be avoided. Picture: Contributed
NFU Scotland chief Scott Walker said the deadline clash should be avoided. Picture: Contributed
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As the Scottish Government this week issued a five-day extension to the deadline for claiming agri-environment support measures, a plea was made for a return to the continuous application and approval process used in the past in order to stop clashes with other support payment deadlines.

An extension of the midweek deadline for Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) applications until Monday was announced after some users had experienced problems with the online application system last weekend.

A spokeswoman said that, due to technical issues, some producers might have experienced problems reviewing the schedule of works or uploading supporting documents.

She said that these issues had now been resolved: “But with the normal maintenance routine meaning the Rural Payments and Services will be unavailable overnight on Thursday, farmers and land managers now have until Monday to submit their AECS applications.”

However, she confirmed that the deadline for submitting supporting documents remained unchanged at 16 May – despite NFU Scotland having called for an extension in order to avoid a clash with basic payment scheme deadline.

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NFU Scotland chief executive Scott Walker took the opportunity to point out that the Scottish Government should revert to the original concept of an on-going application process to avoid approval bottlenecks.

“This would allow the most effective, targeted proposals the chance to deliver what is best for the environment and ensure the best value for limited rural development money,” he said.

“The extension to the application deadline itself is to be welcomed as it recognises the computer problems experienced by applicants last weekend and gives those looking to access this valuable pot of rural development funding an extra few days to complete their applications.

“However, we are disappointed that our request for an extension to the deadline for submitting supporting evidence for AECS applications has not been successful.”

Walker said that this meant the deadline for submitting AECS evidence – 16 May – overlapped with the deadline for submitting SAF 2016 and was a crucial date in the farming calendar for those looking to access support through the new common agricultural policy schemes.

“The inion remains convinced that this is a clash that should be avoided if quality AECS applications are to be encouraged,” he added.