Joan McAlpine has urged Dumfries and Galloway farmers to take make use of a £20m hardship fund announced last week for Scottish agricultural businesses hit by cash flow problems caused by the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments.
Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead announced the scheme at the National Farmers Union of Scotland (NFUS) annual conference. He said progress on making payments has been made but recognised that many agricultural businesses were facing cash flow issues as a result of the biggest ever CAP reform.
Ms McAlpine urged any farmers facing delays in receiving CAP payments to take advantage of the fund, she said:
“Over this winter farmers in Dumfries and Galloway have faced a double whammy of extreme weather and flooding, compounded by delays in payments caused by the introduction of this incredibly complex new payment structure, caused by CAP reforms.
“This new fund announced today will mean farmers can access loans while waiting for their CAP payments to be processed, and I’m looking forward to seeing this important funding reaching our local businesses as swiftly as possible to help alleviate the challenges our local farmers have faced over the past few months.”
EU rules expressly prohibit paying out on claims during the December 1 to June 30 payment window until they have been fully processed.
In response to industry demands, Scotland is replacing the previous two Scotland-wide direct income support schemes with six regionalised schemes in the same year we are having to move to a whole new system where payments are based on land area rather than historic production levels and implement greening. This is in addition to administering the dozen or so funding schemes in the new rural development programme which, for the first time ever, has been reformed in tandem with the direct payments system.
The Scottish Government has already deployed additional staff to area offices and moved to processing applications seven days a week, as well as setting up a customer helpline on 0300 300 2222.