Fergus Ewing unveils loan scheme to cover farm payouts

Scotland's farmers will once again be offered a loan scheme to cover their Basic Payment support payments, Scotland's rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing has revealed.

Fergus Ewing said the move would help provide clarity for farmers. Picture: Contributed

Applications for the opt-in loan scheme are expected to be sent to producers later this month, with payments – which will be in the region of 90 per cent of the due figure – set to begin in early November.

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Making the announcement in a statement to the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Ewing said that the move would help provide clarity and confidence for the sector – and added that full payments, including the balance, would be delivered from March next year, with over 95 per cent of these delivered by the end of June.

“Failure is not an option” he told the debating chamber, “and I am confident that steps have been taken to deliver these payments by the end of next June, as required by the EU”.

Ewing added: “However, In terms of timing, I understand that the period from November to the year end is often an important time for farmers and crofters to make major spending decisions.

“So that is why I am announcing the loan scheme now – so that compared to years past when payments would be made in December and January, the overwhelming majority of farmers will be able to access almost all of their funding from November.”

He said that the loan scheme did not detract from his commitment to accelerate CAP payment.

Urging farmers to make full use of the scheme – which last year made loan payments of £275 million to 18,000 producers – he expressed hope that all producers would apply this year.

Ewing also announced that while the full payments for the 2016 Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme would begin by the end of October, he would launch a further loan scheme, again at 90 per cent, to cover the 2017 LFASS payments to be in farmer’s bank accounts by May of next year - if one was so required.

Reacting to the news, NFU Scotland said that the announcement of the loan schemes and a hard and fast timetable for support payments drew a line under uncertainty and provided clarity to farmers and crofters.

President Andrew McCornick said: “Loan schemes have proved effective in tackling the many difficulties experienced in delivering CAP payments under the 2015 and 2016 schemes.”

NFU Scotland had urged the cabinet secretary to once again consider a national scheme for 2017 to drive up producer confidence and give a lift to the rural economy after a very difficult year.

NFUS gives reassurance over Queensferry Crossing

With some of Scotland’s most productive arable land situated either side of the Firth of Forth, there was consternation earlier this week when farmers were told that they would not be able to take their agricultural vehicles across the new Queensferry Crossing.

But farming organisations moved quickly to gain reassurance for growers that their combines and tractors would not be stranded – and that access would be allowed over the new bridge.

NFU Scotland yesterday said that while some farmers had been told they would have to travel many miles and use he Kincardine or Clackmannan bridges, this information had been incorrect.

“Transport of goods and machinery between both sides of the bridge is extremely important for agricultural businesses at this busy time of year,” said NFUS legal and technical committee chairman, Jamie Smart.

“Following a request from NFUS yesterday, we have had confirmation that, in the short term, agricultural vehicles can use the new bridge as it has an ‘A’ class road status.”

However, the union added that it would be sensible for farmers to avoid rush hour whenever possible.

“Longer term, once the Queensferry Crossing achieves motorway status, NFUS is looking for agricultural vehicles to have access to the Forth Road Bridge,” added Smart.

“Discussions are ongoing, but the Union is seeking access to the Forth Road Bridge without the need for cumbersome bureaucracy or unnecessary levels of paperwork for the farmers looking to use that route.”