2014-04-25  

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Scottish Union in Brussels on Single Farm Payment Rules

NFU Scotland believes the emergency option to deliver interim direct support payments from December 2015 onwards would significantly ease Scottish farmer concerns over the introduction of a new area-based Single Farm Payment scheme next year.

Scotland is in the final stages of deciding how the new CAP requirements will be implemented here. While Scotland has an excellent track record in support payment delivery, the shift to an area-based scheme and the additional complexity that will bring has led to producer concerns about the support payment timetable being met.

Nigel Miller

Nigel Miller

The shift to an area-based scheme in England in 2005 saw significant problems encountered in delivering support payment to successful applicants.

NFU Scotland’s President Nigel Miller and Chief Executive Scott Walker met with European Commission officials in Brussels yesterday (24 April) to discuss the possibility of Scotland being able to make emergency interim payments to SFP recipients should delivery of the new scheme in Scotland hit significant difficulties.

An open dialogue with Scottish Government on expected payment timetable would flag up at an early stage if such emergency measures may be required.

Speaking from Brussels, Scott Walker said:

“Scotland has an excellent track record in delivering SFP with farmers routinely receiving their support payment close to when the payment window opens on 1 December each year. However, the new CAP regime and the required move towards an area-based payment system from 2015 onwards is likely to drive complexity into the system with the potential for delays. Experience in England in 2005 shows what can happen when delivery goes wrong.

“We would be delighted if Scottish Government delivery systems were fully operational and effective by December 2015. But given the risks and concerns, we feel it is appropriate to have a contingency plan in place that ensures successful SFP applicants could receive at least a part payment of their SFP when the window opens in December 2015 should unforeseen failures in the system emerge.

“Knowing that such an emergency backstop was possible would allow farm businesses to manage their cash flow and be able to plan. If, in an event of systems failing, payment could still be received it would help business when talking to banks about extending overdrafts or agreeing borrowing requirements.

“Scottish Government will still be required to complete all necessary checks and inspections before any payment run can start and it is likely that the added complexity of the new scheme, with mandatory greening and young farmer support, will trigger more farm inspections being required to satisfy EU audit requirements.

“We will be urging the Scottish Government to take these into account as they make their plans for next year and ensure adequate resources are available to ensure that inspection requirements do not become an impediment to the payment of SFP.

“The meeting with Commission officials has helped establish how a contingency could possibly be developed should payment of SFP next year be delayed. It is clear that the best way to avoid such a problem is to ensure that adequate systems are put in place to process claims and that the industry is alerted as soon as possible should there be the possibility of delayed payments.

“Transparency on the introduction of the new scheme and proper communication with the industry on how it is developing is vital. We must be open on how the new system is progressing and any potential impact on payment dates flagged up at the earliest opportunity.”

NFUS

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