The Scottish Government have provided a slight clarification on the 50% rough grazing rule.
The Active Farmer test has been causing a great deal of uncertainty, especially the rule that if more than 50% of a claimants total declared land is in Regions 2 or 3, then they have to meet the minimum activity requirements on that land. The concern was that if this requirement was not met the claimant would be judged not to be an Active Farmer and so ineligible, with no way back. This raises the prospect that potential claimants with good productive low ground farms, but who also have large areas of rough grazing (where the latter accounts for more than 50% of the total declared land) could be judged as not being Active Farmers simply on the grounds that they do not farm the hill ground.
Scottish Land & Estates met with Scottish Government this week to explore this issue and received some clarification.
The Scottish Government have clarified that to meet the Active Farmer test with regard to the RGR the claimant does not have to meet the minimum activity requirement, they simply have to be undertaking an agricultural activity which is defined as: “production, rearing or growing of agricultural products, including harvesting, milking, breeding animals, and keeping animals for farming purposes”.
This means that provided there are some stock on the RGR the claimant would meet the test. If there was no activity on the RGR then the test would apply and they would not be an active farmer.
We are still in the situation where a potential claimant with a productive low ground unit and a large area of totally inactive hill (where the latter accounts for more than 50%) would be excluded because they would fail the active farmer test. But what this latest clarification does is clarify that the hill area would not need to meet the minimum activity requirement; it would only have to be supporting some form of agricultural activity, thus potentially mitigating the numbers that might have been excluded.
So, in effect, provided the claimant can demonstrate that they are undertaking an agricultural activity (production, rearing or growing of agricultural products, including harvesting, milking, breeding animals, and keeping animals for farming purposes) on the rough grazing, they should be able to pass the Active farmer test. This does not mean, however, that the claimant would necessarily be able to claim support on the rough grazing; to claim they would need to meet the minimum activity requirements.