Earlier in the week the Scottish Government confirmed that the number of Scottish farmers and crofters who had completed their SAF applications ahead of the window which closes at midnight on Monday was well down on the figure at the same stage last year.
However, while there had been a spurt towards the end of the week, with 15,371 SAF 2022 submitted by Friday morning – a figure which was close to 80 per cent of the expected final number and slightly up on the same point last year - those still to complete their forms were urged to avoid leaving it to the very last minute.
It was stressed that completion of a SAF was required to access important support schemes such as the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening, as well as the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme.
And NFU Scotland this week made it plain that all schemes which were covered by the SAF were absolutely critical to the financial well-being of Scottish agriculture – injecting well over £500 million to the industry annually.
With such a small length of time remaining, the union welcomed the news that the Scottish Government had organised out of hours cover for IT related issues over this weekend (14/15 May) - and after office hours cover on Monday 16 May until midnight.
Customers having technical issues affecting their browser, accessing the SAF site or with resetting passwords and unlocking accounts will be able to contact the IT service desk on 0131 244 6202 9-5 today and tomorrow and until midnight on Monday.
However, it was made clear that any questions in relation to SAF2022 guidance should be directed to local Agriculture and Rural Economy (ARE) offices during office hours - and farmers and crofters will also be able to speak online about their SAF to a member of ARE Area Office staff over its web chat facility.
“Support payments remain critically important to the viability of most Scottish farming and crofting businesses,” said NFU Scotland director of policy Jonnie Hall.
“The importance of that support will be underlined this year and into next year as we see unprecedented rises in input costs and unpredictable volatility in prices,” he added.
And Hall said that the challenging economics of the coming year added to the worry that there remained a significant number of SAF forms still to be submitted.
“Farmers and crofters must prioritise these annual application forms in the next few days. The deadline of 16 May is almost upon us, and we urge all eligible applicants to concentrate on completing their submission now rather than at the last minute.”
He added that even with the transition to new agricultural policy and support arrangements underway, the SAF deadline remained one of the most important dates in Scottish farming.