Following lobbying from across the industry, including from Scottish Land & Estates, the Scottish Government has decided to extend the SAF deadline by one month until June 15, 2015.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead confirmed the Scottish Government will allow farmers to benefit from the flexibility announced by the EU and expected to be approved next week, given the concerns raised by farmers about the complexity of the new system.
The Scottish Government will make every effort to stick to the payment schedule. Mr Lochhead has highlighted that we need Europe to give flexibility on the inspection regime that has already been asked for by member states.
Technical experts are continuing work to fix issues with the new Rural Payments and Services online system as quickly as possible after they have been raised.
Mr Lochhead said:
“Delivery of the new CAP is an absolute priority for the Scottish Government. The system is complex and has presented significant challenges in Scotland and across Europe – as shown by Commissioner Hogan’s announcement that a four week extension to the application window would be allowed.
“Having carefully considered all of the options, consulted widely with those involved in agriculture in Scotland and taking into account the hard work going on behind the scenes to maximise the performance of our online system, I have decided to extend the Scottish application window by a month until the 15th of June, subject to the approval of EU legislation which is expected next week.
“As part of our efforts to make payments as soon as possible we will look at all flexibilities permitted within the EU rules and I strongly encourage the EU to give additional flexibility, particularly around the inspection regime which has already been called for by other member states.
“Of course, paper copies of the forms have always been and continue to be available to farmers and crofters. We will also continue to respond to reports of issues with the IT system as quickly as we can and liaise regularly with industry representatives to ensure the views of farmers and crofters are taken on board every step of the way.”
The regulation allows for a 25 calendar day penalty period for late submissions, which would mean that this would end on 10 July 2015. However, there is no ability to extend the period for adjustments to SAF and, therefore, final versions of SAFs must be submitted by June 15, 2015.
This does not change the current closing date of the Agri-Environment Scheme of June 12, 2015.