Local MSP Joan McAlpine has urged farmers to beat the last minute rush and apply for farm payments using the Single Application Form (SAF) as the Scottish Government announced improvements to the operation of the new Rural Payments and Services website.
The complexity of the new Common Agricultural policy (CAP) has resulted in implementation challenges right across the UK and Europe – and as a consequence Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June.
Ms McAlpine said:
“Local farmers have just over one month left to complete their SAF forms. We already know this task has been made more difficult by the complexity of the new policy, so people should not leave it till the last minute to apply.
“It is good news that the Scottish Government has taken action so that the performance of the Rural Payments and Services system has improved – particularly the speed at which it runs.
“Scotland, along with 15 other EU countries, have extended the deadline for farmers and crofters to submit their SAF until the 15 June – but, if possible, farmers should beat the last minute rush and apply now.”
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said:
“This is the first year of the new payment system for the more complex Common Agricultural Policy and, although delivery has been challenging, we are now seeing real improvements to the system’s operation.
“While the new system is different from the previous one that farmers will be familiar with, it offers significant benefits to farmers, ensuring they get paid what they are due and is designed to minimise errors and penalties.
“We are aware that some farmers and agents have experienced issues and we have a dedicated team working to ensure all problems are sorted as quickly and we have extended the deadline for the submission of applications by one month to 15 June 2015 to allow for more time to get used to the system and rules of the new Common Agricultural Policy Programme. In addition, we recognise that that online applications do not suit everyone and paper applications have always been welcome.”
• The new Rural Payments and Services system will be used to pay out almost £4 billion of Common Agricultural Policy funding over the next five years.
• The new service is necessary because previous infrastructure is unable to accommodate the new CAP which includes regionalisation of payments, coupled support for sheep, young farmer, greening, payments as well as the full range of steps in the payment process including applications, payment, inspections and reporting
• There has always been the option for customers to submit paper forms; we have not insisted that all customers submit their SAFs online, unlike England. Pre-populated paper forms have already been issued to paper customers. Customers can print their SAF details from the online system. Blank paper forms remain available to farmers in Scotland from local Area Offices and online.