As predicted, the Scottish Government yesterday confirmed the deadline for submitting this year’s single application forms (SAFs) for farm support funding will be extended by a month, to 15 June.
However, although the move was welcomed by NFU Scotland, president Allan Bowie said the union was of the opinion that the extension should have no knock-on delays for the payment window at the end of the year.
He said: “NFU Scotland believes the Scottish Government must draw up a new contract with Scottish farmers and crofters and the wider rural economy, set a timeframe when payments will be delivered in the future and allow farm businesses and those they do business with to plan accordingly.
“The fact that the IT system is still toiling to approve all applications made in 2015 means that a clear priority for the newly elected Scottish Government is to deliver all outstanding payments.”
The extension comes after the European Commission granted member states the discretion to extend the application window again this year, in recognition of the challenges implementing the new, more complex common agricultural policy (CAP) being experienced by nations across the EU.
The Scottish Government yesterday said for the vast majority of customers there was nothing to delay submission this year.
A spokeswoman added: “However, a small number of farmers, principally around 1,300 who were subject to land inspections in respect of their 2015 claims, have not yet been provided with fully updated mapping data on which to base their 2016 claim.
“Following discussion with NFUS representatives, who requested an application extension, the Scottish Government has now confirmed it will make use of this flexibility and extend the SAF window.”
Claiming that the system – which was highly criticised for its performance last year – was “working well” this time round, she encouraged farmers to submit their SAFs as soon as possible, and not to delay just because the deadline had been moved.
She said: “The extension of the window will have an impact on the 2016 programme and the earlier SAFs are submitted, the earlier Scottish Government can begin the processing of 2016 claims, thereby mitigating the impact on the timetable for 2016 claims.”
It was also pointed out that while there was normally a period after the submission deadline during which SAFs could be amended without penalty, under the EU’s terms of the extension, there would be no such period in 2016, giving producers another reason to submit early.