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Scottish sheep producers need info over vital support scheme

A vital new scheme to support sheep producers in Scotland’s hills and uplands opened for applications today (1 September) but those eligible need a clear steer from Scottish Government on how to access funds.
 
An estimated 3500 to 4000 hill farmers and crofters, keeping breeding flocks on some of Scotland’s most disadvantaged land can now apply to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) – a fund worth €8 million (approx. £6.1 million).
 
The coupled support scheme is for home-bred ewe hoggs.  Payments rates will depend on the number of ewe hoggs claimed, and payments in sterling will depend on the exchange rate in force at the time.  However, Scottish Government has estimated that it could be worth €100 per ewe hogg – a lifeline payment for hill farmers and crofters at a time when market returns and basic support levels are falling. 
 
However, NFU Scotland is worried at the amount of basic information on the application process provided by Scottish Government to date. To claim under the SUSSS, applications – either on line or on paper – must be submitted between 1 September and 16 October.  This is a short six-week window in which to apply and 
 
NFU Scotland has called on Scottish Government to write to every potential applicant immediately to ensure that all eligible farmers or crofters are fully aware of the application process for this new scheme.
 
NFU Scotland’s President Allan Bowie said: “Scotland’s hill sheep farmers and crofters need a clearer steer over this important new scheme that could help underpin returns to their business.  The scheme is now live, applications are open, but that information has, to date, been poorly communicated to potential claimants and we need Scottish Government to turn that around with a degree of urgency.
 
“At €8 million, this scheme is one of the key measure of ensuring that CAP direct payments are best targeted at those who actively farm.   Facing a lower Basic Payment on Region 3 land, an upland sheep scheme helps to ensure that we use our limited budget to best effect. Crucially, by targeting it at ewe hoggs, it has been designed so that it funds are only for those who keep regular breeding flocks on our most disadvantage land.
 
“It is vital that eligible farmers and crofters make the most of this scheme as it will be an increasingly important element of the direct funding available to their business. 
 
“The application window, which opened today (1 September), is only six weeks wide.  As a Union, we are doing our bit to relay that message to our members but Scottish Government must do its part as well. This package of funding was only secured after hard fought negotiations at a European, UK and Scottish level.  It is in everyone’s interests that we make it work and for that to happen, we need the Scottish Government to be more proactive in getting scheme details out there.
 
“With SUSSS already open and the clock ticking, we need Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead to send clear and concise information to all those producers likely to be eligible, making them aware of the application process and what would be required in making a claim. Given the short application window, that must be a priority and ideally delivered in days, not weeks.
 
“It is a new scheme and there is a higher level of complexity than we would have wanted.  That means that the cross compliance burden is significant so the earlier farmers are reminded of the requirements, the better they can prepare. That would also be in the interest of SGRPID and those ooficers in charge of the inspection process. For our part, we have already been across in Brussels lobbying for more practical rules when it comes to recognising missing sheep or tag losses.”  Ends
 
Notes for Editors
The Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) gives direct support to help maintain sheep flocks on farms and crofts that are reliant on poorer quality rough grazing. It will be managed by SGRPID. 
 
Scheme Outline
Eligible businesses are those with 80 per cent or more Payment Region 3 land and less than 200 hectares of Payment Region 1 land
Eligible animals have to be homebred ewe hoggs of any breed that are less than 12 months old at the start of the retention period
Claiming businesses must maintain a flock register and keep it up to date. In addition, claiming businesses must comply with the Sheep and Goats (Records, Identification and Movement) (Scotland) Order 2009
Claims will be limited to four hectares of Region 3 land per ewe hogg claimed
To apply, the business must first submit a Single Application Form (SAF) for the same year
The application period runs from 1 September to 16 October each year
Application forms to be submitted either online or by post, and to include detail of each eligible ewe hogg’s identification number
Eligible animals must be retained on the holding (including away winterings) from 17 October in the year of claim to 31 March in the following year
Dead, lost or sold claimed animals must be withdrawn within 10 days of becoming aware.  An entire claim or individual animals can be withdrawn at any time, but not if SGRPID have notified an inspection, or have notified of any errors in a claim
Payments are due in April, after the end of the retention period
 
Members can log in to the NFUS website at www.nfus.org.uk are read Business Guide 30 for more on the scheme or go to: https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/scottish-upland-sheep-support-scheme/ 
 
For more information contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006 or email bob.carruth@nfus.org.uk 
 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 164/15


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