Farm support cash ‘to continue in 2014’

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Essential EU funding for farmers, due to end in 2013, will continue for another year, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead announced yesterday.

Delays in Europe passing necessary legislation meant some streams of support faced a year-long gap until the new common agricultural policy (CAP) came into effect in 2015 – and the announcement that the Scottish Government would do its best to bridge this gap was widely welcomed by the industry.

Although it had already been understood that the single farm payment scheme, which sees £500 million of support delivered for agricultural production, would effectively be rolled over for 2014, rural development (pillar two) schemes were due to end on 31 December 2013.

However, with no replacement scheme sanctioned to start until 2015, the Scottish Government said that it will step in to make sure that core payments such as support for less favoured areas and agri-environment schemes – including organic payments – would continue for 2014.

Welcoming the news, NFU Scotland’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall, said: “The key funding priorities for Scottish agriculture in 2014 – SFP, LFASS and existing five-year agri-environment agreements – now appear to be covered. That certainty is vital for a huge number of farms and crofts across Scotland.

“And given that farmers, through modulation, will continue to see part of their SFP siphoned off into the rural development pot through this period, their priorities should be given due consideration.”

He added that farmers also faced the prospect of financial discipline across Europe reducing their direct support by around 4 per cent adding that this simply underlined the fact that every penny delivered to farm businesses in 2014 was required.

Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, also welcomed the announcement stating:

“Discontinuity in support can play havoc with farm finances and so early clarification is helpful so that businesses can plan ahead,” he said.

However, Lochhead stated that the Scottish Government was unable to cover all areas of expenditure:

“Under current European CAP transition regulations, however, not all SRDP schemes can continue which is why the Scottish Government and other governments across Europe are continuing to press hard for a full rollover of the rural development programme in 2014.”

He said that there would be no new land managers options (LMO) applications for 2014 as this type of non-competitive support would not be permitted under the new regulatory framework.

“Instead, the Scottish Government is working on options to provide effective and accessible support to farmers in Scotland,” he said.

Lochhead also said that the Scottish Government was making a strong case for transition regulations to allow continued support for Scotland’s Leader scheme.