Union Supports Form Filling Deadline Change

NFU Scotland has welcomed the Scottish Government decision to extend the deadline for Scottish farmers and crofters to apply for Europe’s new farm support scheme by one month.
The Scottish Government decision follows an announcement in March when European Farm Commissioner Phil Hogan recognised the difficulties being experienced across Europe in introducing the new Common Agricultural Policy schemes.  Mr Hogan indicated that, if necessary, competent authorities could extend the Single Application Form (SAF) deadline, set for 15 May, by up to one month.
In discussions with Scottish Government this week, NFU Scotland indicated that it would support a move to make full use of the extension and it welcomes the news that the deadline for submitting SAF forms will now shift from 15 May to 15 June.
Given ongoing difficulties being experienced by those accessing the new computerised application system, the Union believes the extension will allow more time for the forms to be completed electronically online.  NFUS agrees that online submissions are the preferred method of application and applicants should start the application process at the earliest opportunity.  The Union is adamant that regardless of the extension to the application period, farmers must crack on with completing these crucial forms.
NFU Scotland Chief Executive Scott Walker said: “With exactly a month to go until the original deadline date of May 15, it was clear from the calls and emails that we had received that some members were having difficulties using the new online application system and that a deadline extension made sense. 
“We welcome Scottish Government efforts to quickly upgrade and improve the computer system as issues arise but the deadline of 15 May was looming large.  A month’s extension will now give the industry a cushion of comfort to make sure we get as many applications submitted electronically as possible.
“With the extension announced, we would urge farmers not to put the brakes on the application process and delay it until the last minute.  This is a new scheme and a new application process and claimants must make allowances on the time it may take to complete it successfully. The sooner they start, the earlier any problems will be identified and help can be sought.
“Extending the application period will justifiably raise concerns that the traditional December payment window for support payments will be missed.   We have asked Scottish Government to be straight with Scottish farmers and, if payment delays are likely, then we have asked that they give producers early notice so that business planning and any necessary arrangements can be put in place. 
“We have already raised with the EU Commission the possibility, if systems fail, of making a part payment within the normal December window.   The difficulties being experienced across Europe in introducing the new CAP shows that we are not alone and the option to make part payment would recognise these exceptional circumstances.
“This is a matter on which the Scottish and Westminster Governments should be having a dialogue with Europe about.  It would provide a useful contingency in the event that the normal December payment run is unachievable.”

Date Published:

News Article No.: 73/15

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