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Cuts To LFASS Payments Unacceptable Says NFUS

Scottish budget sees 20 percent blow to 2019 payments

Figures revealed in the Scottish Budget, announced at Holyrood last week, confirm a 20 percent cut in the budget for lifeline Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments.

NFU Scotland has deemed any cut to LFASS payments as unacceptable.  As well as the cuts that LFA farmers and crofters face in 2019, there is the prospect of a possible 80 per cent cut in 2020, with complete uncertainty from then on.

The so called ‘parachute’ payment cuts are a direct result of existing EU regulations that continue to govern the operation of LFASS.  In the absence of an effective Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) scheme, Scottish Government must reduce payments it continues to make under LFASS.

It is NFU Scotland’s position that LFASS payments are vital to Scottish farming and crofting businesses.  At the request of NFU Scotland, Scottish Government is working at a European level in a bid to secure a derogation that would allow it to reinstate the LFASS budget to its full amount of £65 million.

Given a primary objective of LFASS or ANC support is the prevention of land abandonment, the case put together for derogation demonstrates the very real need for continuity of LFASS payments at current levels in order to ensure continued agricultural activity in remoter and more disadvantaged areas. Without such support, many farmers and crofters have already indicated their intentions to destock which would lead to significant adverse impacts in many of Scotland’s more challenging locations.

In late August, members of the Unions LFA committee met with Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP in Grantown-on-Spey to relay first hand the importance of these payments, the committee urged Scottish Government to explore any solution to make up any enforced shortfall in LFASS payments.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “While confirmation of the cut for 2019 is no surprise, it is nevertheless a massive body blow for LFA producers having just come through an unprecedented period of physical and financial challenges that resulted in some throwing in the towel and left many on the brink and short of confidence.

“The net result of cuts to LFASS, unless reversed, will be a further demise of our more extensive livestock sectors; the red meat sector in general; the Scotch brand it underpins and the risk of yet more agricultural land abandonment in some quarters.

“LFASS payments provide a vital financial boost to those who are trying forge a living out of some of the hardest land in the country. For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses but also for the natural environments which they tend to.

“Given a primary objective of LFASS or ANC support is the prevention of land abandonment, a strong case is being put together with Scottish Government to demonstrate the need for a derogation from the existing EU requirements.

“That case is based on the very real need for continuity of LFASS payments at current levels in order to ensure continued agricultural activity in remote and more disadvantaged areas. Without such support, many farmers and crofters have already indicated their intentions to destock.

“The essential LFASS payment does not just support farmers and crofters in rural areas but also the surrounding rural economy, providing investment, employment and opportunities.

“The difficult weather over the last 18 months and the added costs which farmers and crofters have had to pay for bedding and fodder has only vindicated the Union’s position that the LFASS payments are absolutely vital and any cut in them must be avoided at all costs. This is a message we continue to take to our political representatives.”    

Ends

Contact Douglas Ross on 0131 472 4059

Author: Douglas Ross

Date Published:

News Article No.: 173/18


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Cuts to LFASS payments unacceptable says NFUS

NFU Scotland has called for Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing to hold LFA support at current levels during Grantown-on-Spey meeting

NFU Scotland has deemed any cut to lifeline Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments as unacceptable.  LFA farmers and crofters are set to see their vital payments cut by 20 per cent in 2019, followed by a possible 80 per cent cut in 2020, with complete uncertainty from then on. 

The Scottish Government has said it is unable to provide any certainty beyond 2019 and put this down to a lack of clear assurances from the UK Government on post-Brexit guarantees.

It is NFU Scotland’s position that the LFASS payments are vital to Scottish farming and crofting businesses, and the Scottish Government needs to continue to provide support at its current level of £65 million through 2019 and 2020.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy Fergus Ewing MSP attended to today’s (Thursday 30 August) LFASS Committee meeting in Grantown-on-Spey to hear first hand from the Union’s LFA representatives and discuss possible solutions to make up any enforced shortfall in LFASS payments directly to those farmers and crofters who deliver so much via this lifeline support. 
In a separate meeting, Mr Ewing also met with members of the Union’s Crofting, Highlands and Islands committee.
NFU Scotland LFA Committee Chairman Robert Macdonald said: “It was good to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to the meeting today and hear directly from farmers and crofters on just how these proposed cuts will affect them, their businesses and their communities. 

“LFASS payments provide a vital financial boost to farmers and crofters who are trying forge a living out of some of the hardest land in the country. For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses but also for the natural environments which they tend to.

“We have made Mr Ewing fully aware of our concerns today and he has been given a great deal of food for thought as he returns to Holyrood.”
NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick, who attended today’s meeting, said: “Farmers and crofters in these disadvantaged areas provide a vast array of economic, environmental and social benefits to not only their local communities but also Scotland as a whole. 

“The essential LFASS payment does not just support farmers and crofters in rural areas but also the surrounding communities, getting reinvested into local businesses and almost immediately supporting the rural economy, providing employment and opportunities.

“The difficult weather over the last 18 months and the added costs which farmers and crofters have had to pay for bedding and fodder has only vindicated the Union’s position that the LFASS payments are absolutely vital and any cut in them must be avoided at all costs. This is a message we must continue to take to our political representatives.”

Notes to Editor
• A picture from the meeting with Fergus Ewing will be available after 2pm on Thursday 30 August by request from media@nfus.org.uk 

• Details on NFU Scotland’s feed and fodder campaign #NFUSHowDoYouPlan can be found at: https://www.nfus.org.uk/policy/campaigns/12week-straw-and-feed-campaign--how-do-you-plan-for-the-future.aspx 

For further information contact Douglas Ross on douglas.ross@nfus.org.uk 

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 122/18


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