Scottish Government steps up to ensure best deal for farmers despite EU delays.
Essential EU funding for farmers which was due to end in 2013 will continue for another year, the Rural Affairs Secretary has announced.
Delays in Europe passing necessary legislation meant some streams of support faced a year-long gap until the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can come into effect in 2015.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead has confirmed the Scottish Government has stepped in to ensure Scottish farmers will continue to receive support in 2014.
Direct (Pillar 1) payments to farmers worth approximately £0.5 billion will go ahead as normal and as much as possible of the £1.2 billion Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) will continue next year.
Mr Lochhead said:
“The Scottish Government is working relentlessly to ensure our farmers get the support they need and a fair deal from Europe. That is why we are acting quickly, using the powers and funds available to us, to protect essential subsidies for our farmers and ensure we continue to protect our natural environment.
“In the face of an 11 per cent real terms cut to the Scottish Government’s budget imposed by Westminster, I have protected Scottish Government funding for rural development. I have allocated about £70 million from my portfolio’s draft budget in 2014-15 - compared to £66 million this financial year - which will mitigate as far as possible the impact of EU delays. In the coming weeks and months, my officials will write to those who currently receive support under these schemes setting out our plans in more detail and what they should do next.
“Under current European CAP transition regulations, however, not all SRDP schemes can continue which is why the Scottish Government and other Governments across Europe are continuing to press hard for a full roll over of the Rural Development programme in 2014.
“We are also continuing to argue for a fair share for the UK’s CAP allocation for our farmers. Despite the action the Scottish Government is taking to maintain support, Scottish farmers will be hundreds of millions of euros worse off than farmers in other countries over this CAP period due to the reduced CAP budget, the failure in particular to secure extra rural development funding, and other concessions agreed by UK Government.
“It is clear that decisions about Scotland are best taken by the people who live here. Only with independence will Scotland have the powers it needs to secure a fair deal for Scottish farmers.”
The main elements of the transition arrangements for 2014 are as follows:
- ‘Pillar 1’ of the CAP (direct payments to farmers) – the current system based on Single Farm Payments will essentially remain in place for 2014, with the new system starting in 2015.
- The Less Favoured Area Support Scheme ,which provides support to farm business operating in remote and fragile areas, will continue in 2014 - with a 2015 payment date as normal.
- Agri-environment contracts (including organic agreements) that were due to expire on December 31, 2013 will be extended for another year. About 1,000 business will be contacted in the coming weeks by Scottish Government officials.
- Forestry payments – Woodland creation and woodland management projects will be able to go ahead in 2014-15 under contracts being approved up to the end of this year.
- The main elements of the Crofting Counties Agricultural Grant Scheme (CCAGS) will continue under a state aid scheme although continued funding for drainage schemes will depend on the final transition regulations agreed by the European Commission.
- The Scottish Government is making a strong case for transition regulations to allow continued support for Scotland’s LEADER scheme, which has invested around £60 million to support rural communities, and the EU-funded £10 million Food and Drink scheme. A decision is expected from Europe in November.
- There will be no new Land Managers Options (LMO) applications for 2014 as this type of non-competitive support will not be permitted under the new regulatory framework put in place by the European Commission. Instead, the Scottish Government is working on options to ensure the new SRDP in 2015 will provide effective and accessible support to farmers in Scotland.