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Union Requests Changes to Ewe Hogg Scheme

NFU Scotland has formally requested that the Scottish Government consider urgently required changes to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS).  This follows a similar request from NFU Scotland in September 2016.

The scheme, worth around £6 million, is designed to assist active hill farmers and crofters through a payment coupled to the number of ewe hoggs they keep as breeding replacements for their flocks.

Now into its third year, the Scheme continues to cause difficulties for those most reliant on these payments as a major part of their direct support payments.

NFU Scotland believe that the changes proposed will make SUSSS more effective in meeting its policy goals without compromising important requirements such as eligibility, inspection and validation.  More importantly, these changes would be budget neutral, but would make the Scheme more effective.

The first amendment proposed by NFUS is to alter the SUSSS application period, currently 1 September to 16 October, to the increased period of 1 September to 30 November with the start of a new retention period from 1 December to 31 March.

To improve the effectiveness of ewe hogg payments being targeted at those most reliant on these payments, NFU Scotland also proposes that the number of eligible ewe hoggs that can be claimed on should be no more than a fixed proportion (20 or 25 per cent) of the ewes and gimmers of the regular breeding flock of the claimant.  

These recommended changes have been unanimously agreed by NFU Scotland’s Board of Directors, LFA Committee, Crofting and H&I Committee, Argyll and the Islands Regional Board, and Highland Regional Board – the groups within NFU Scotland with a real interest in making sure the ewe hogg scheme works well.   

NFU Scotland’s President Andrew McCornick said: “As a Union, we are resolutely focused on making effective changes to SUSSS so that this essential support is targeted correctly.

“We are not seeking to amend the budget or payment rate components of the Scheme, but we are seeking to make it more closely aligned to the interests of those businesses it is clearly intended to support.

“The application period is evidently too short for many hill farmers and crofters.  Some not able to access hill ground until after the close of the application period (16 October) due to the terms of their lease that prevent them from gathering eligible animals until after 20 October (the end of the stag stalking season).  And many simply cannot fully gather all their eligible animals in such a narrow time frame.”

“I believe that these changes to application and retention periods would not compromise the required inspection regime, but would give those applicants dependent on the Scheme the best opportunity to access this support specifically targeted at them.

“To improve the effectiveness of ewe hogg payments being targeted at those most reliant on these payments, NFU Scotland is also adamant that an effective control is required to help prevent those with an excess of ewe hoggs over and above the numbers required to maintain their breeding flock from taking advantage – which is one of the stated intentions of this coupled support scheme.”

Ends

Contact Douglas Ross on 07823 556253

Author: Douglas Ross

Date Published:

News Article No.: 107/17


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