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Union Seeks Clarification on LFASS re-basing to allow Scheme Anomolies to be Addressed

NFU Scotland has written to the European Commission, seeking clarification that the nation’s Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) can be re-based.

The Union has already asked the Scottish Government to re-base the scheme, which delivers £65 million annually to those farming livestock in disadvantaged areas. The payments, made under Pillar 2 of the CAP, are a vital strand of rural development support in Scotland, where more than 85 percent of our land mass is designated as LFA.

As a consequence of the delay in agreeing CAP Reform, European rules to re-designate LFAs as Areas of Natural Constraint (ANC) may not now kick in until 2017 leaving existing LFASS rules to apply until then.  The Union believes that this creates an opportunity to re-base the current scheme to allow those currently locked out of support an earlier route in to vital funds.  Re-basing the scheme will also ensure that this important pot is re-focussed on those actively keeping breeding stock in LFA areas.

In his letter to the Commission, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:
“There are two spin-off benefits in the potential delay until 2017 of changing from the current LFAs designation to ANCs.  Firstly, the continuity of retaining the existing support measures is welcome.   Many Scottish farmers are comfortable with these and they will provide a level of certainty at a time when producers will also have to adapt to new area-based Single Farm Payment and a reduced Pillar 1 budget to accompany it.

“Secondly, there is a window in which to re-base the scheme so that we capture those active livestock keepers who merit inclusion but are currently locked out of LFASS.

“The present scheme has a historic basis with eligibility being defined by keeping suckler herds or breeding sheep during the 2009 base year. That historic gateway to support has created anomalies that lock out new entrants from receiving LFASS payments and also excludes farm businesses which operated non-eligible enterprises during 2009 but now keep suckler cows or keep breeding sheep. 

“A significant number of farmers in Scotland’s LFAs now operate identical farming systems and face the same identical physical disadvantages as their neighbours, but they cannot access vital rural development support because of the historic anchor within the LFA Support Scheme.

“That group of excluded businesses could become eligible for LFASS payments by moving to a new base year of 2012, and looking at the livestock kept by all farmers in the LFAs that year.
 
“With the extension of the present LFASS arrangements to perhaps 2017, the injustices of historic eligibility have become more acute and require an urgent solution. 

“We have already approached the Scottish Government on this issue and we are now seeking confirmation from the European Commission that a re-basing of Scotland’s LFASS is allowable under the present regulatory framework.   We hope it agrees that identifying a process that will allow disadvantaged producers to gain LFASS payments in some of our most challenging regions is of real value.”  Ends

 

Date Published:

News Article No.: 133/13


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