Due to the delays in payments to farmers, Richard Lochhead has announced a £20 million scheme to enable farmers and crofters to access loans whilst waiting for their Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.
Speaking at the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) annual conference in St Andrews, Mr Lochhead confirmed that more than 7,300 payments have now been authorised, which equates to about 40 per cent of the 18,000 or so eligible claims.
He also stressed that the Scottish Government is continuing to do everything in its power make payments as soon as possible against the challenge of implementing hugely difficult CAP reforms.
The Rural Affairs Secretary said:
“I fully recognise the cash flow issues facing Scottish agriculture as a result of difficult market and weather conditions coinciding with the biggest CAP reform ever.
“The Scottish Government continues to do everything in our power to get first instalments out to as many people as we can by the end of March and the balance of payments as soon as possible after that.
“We are making progress. However the extreme complexity of the policy we agreed with industry in Scotland – which is being delivered by a brand new IT system that we are constantly working to improve - means it is taking longer than expected to process applications – and I am aware that as a result some farmers and crofters are facing hardship.
“That is why the Scottish Government is taking further action to ease cash flow pressures in the sector by earmarking up to £20 million to ensure those most in need can access the credit they require until their payments come through.
“We will work with NFUS, banks and others to finalise the detail of the scheme and ensure it is available as quickly as possible and simple to access.”