Chance to right wrongs over farm support payments

Letters being sent to farmers by the Scottish government outlining exclusions and reductions in support payments have been criticised for being “worrying and confusing”.

However, they have also been welcomed as an opportunity to right possible historic wrongs.

Reacting to the mailshot, NFU Scotland vice president, Andrew Connon said that union had received confirmation from SGRPID that the letters being sent to farmers and crofters were not about new deductions being made to claims – rather they were a late explanation of why reductions or exclusions had been made in 2015.

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Stating that the notifications could have been better explained, Connon said that the information referred to historic deductions made when the Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, Young Farmer or Less Favoured Area Support schemes were first introduced as the new system of area support was bedding in during 2015.

“This is the first time that Scottish government has informed claimants in writing why they had deductions in the 2015 scheme year and presents opportunity for claimants, if they disagree with the rational put forward by the Department, to appeal the decision. Members with no reductions will not receive a letter.”

Connon advised those receiving letters to take time to read the explanation as to why the deductions had been made.

“Check through your records and if you are unhappy with the information, or need more detail, then you or your agent should, in the first instance, contact your local area RPID office to discuss.”

He said that if a farmer did not agree with the reasoning given in the discussions with RPID officials, they had the right to appeal within 60 days.

Stewart Johnston of land agents Galbraith said that despite the six year delay, the move was good news for farmers and landowners.

“We have raised the issue in the past and we are aware of many cases where the exclusion seems arbitrary,” said Johnston.

“For some farmers the amount deducted runs into five figures,” he said stating that the letters offered the first opportunity for farmers to find out why they had been short changed on their support payments right from the start of the new system.

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He said that the technicalities which could have seen an area of land being excluded from SAF included ineligible land covers, crops or invalid seasonal let agreements.

“However, a significant number of these deductions were due to RPID errors,” said Johnston who said that more than half of the farmer appeals had so far been successful.

“Some farmers are well aware that the deduction has been applied incorrectly, while others may not be as the explanations of payments were often complicated by exchange rate differences and other factors. We advise everyone to look out for the letter from RPID and consider whether they should make an appeal.”

Estimating that up to 4,000 farmers had been subject to a deduction or an exclusion to their Single Application Form (SAF) 2015 claims he advised farmers to appeal if they thought their payments were incorrect.



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