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Union Calls for Scottish Government to Make Up LFASS 2019 Shortfall

Gap in funding can and must be made good says NFUS

NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish Government calling on it to act with urgency and certainty to plug the critical funding gap faced by farmers and crofters in Scotland’s less favoured areas.

Under existing European Union rules around the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS), payments for the 2019 scheme, due in Spring 2020, are to fall to 80 percent of their LFASS 2018 levels – reducing the LFASS budget of £65 million by some £13 million.  By the LFASS 2020 scheme year, the cut in funding would be 60 percent from 2018 levels.

The issue has been raised in person with Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing, at a recent meeting with NFU Scotland’s Board of Directors and Mr Ewing has also met with the Union’s LFA committee twice in ten months.

The Union welcomed Scottish Government’s parliamentary statement in January of its intention to “effectively reinstate funding levels to 100 per cent of LFASS”.

In a letter to Mr Ewing, the Union has pressed home the need for that to be confirmed as a matter of urgency.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “Recognising that we can’t simply top-up LFASS, we are seeking immediate and effective action by Scottish Government to address the LFASS 2019 shortfall of some 20 per cent.

“At a time when political noise drowns out practical need, those farming and crofting Scotland’s more disadvantaged land need certainty and support.  

“Our Brexit survey, launched at the recent Highland Show, clearly shows that confidence levels amongst our farmers and crofters are eroding at an alarming rate.  Many have already faced poorer market returns and increased costs to their business related to the Brexit uncertainty.

“The Union’s LFASS survey carried out in 2018 indicated that 8 out of 10 hill farmers and crofters would reduce cow and ewe numbers over the next five years if there was no LFA support.

“LFASS 2019 applications closed in May and NFU Scotland members from Shetland to Stranraer are increasingly seeking an absolute commitment from Scottish Government to effectively make up a very damaging drop in funding in what is proving to be an increasingly turbulent time for Scottish farmers and crofters.

“We are of the clear view that the LFASS 2019 shortfall can and must be made good to prevent the risk of land abandonment and the loss of all the many rural development benefits that hinge on active farming and crofting in disadvantaged areas. Effective support is critical to farmers and crofters if they are to continue to deliver all they do for food production, rural economies, local communities, habitats and landscapes.

“In addition to the 80 per cent LFASS 2019 payments being made under existing regulations, we urge Scottish Government to separately commit to making de minimis payments to LFASS applicants under the state aid provisions or identify another deliverable solution.

“I repeat the urgency of the situation. It is imperative that Scottish Government acts now and in an entirely positive fashion. In doing so, a significant element of the current uncertainty that is undermining already fragile confidence would be removed.”  

Ends

Contact Bob Carruth on 0131 472 4006

Author: Bob Carruth

Date Published:

News Article No.: 92/19


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