New Payment Fears for Hill and Sheep Farmers as Crisis Deepens
Ian Duncan, the Conservative MEP for Scotland, has raised fresh concerns that Hill and Sheep farmers will not receive payments on time, as a result of the ongoing crisis in the Scottish Government's £180m IT system.
Payments totalling £65 million from the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS), of vital importance to sheep and hill farmers, were expected to be made in the first week of March. However National Sheep Association Scotland have questioned why there has been no communication whatsoever from the Scottish Government as to whether this deadline will be met.
They fear that the emergency deployment of Scottish Government staff to cope with the crisis in the farming payment IT system, has meant that no staff are available to process LFASS or even Beef Calf Scheme payments.
At the NFUS Conference in St Andrews on the 12th of February, Farming Secretary Richard Lochhead admitted that the payment roll-out fiasco had created ‘financial difficulties’ across the sector, adding he was concerned about the effect on other schemes, including the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme.
Sybil Macpherson, chairman of the National Sheep Association, Scotland commented,
"Mr Lochhead has completely lost control of his civil servants. The colossal amount of money which has been misspent and the incompetency with which the new BPS has been managed is unacceptable, and I shall be writing to Nicola Sturgeon demanding an explanation to the current situation. The apparent inevitability of delay in LFASS payment, which is crucial to many producers, needs to be challenged. For many sheep farmers LFASS payments are as important as Pillar 1 support, and claimants need to be made aware that they face a delay in their payment. The question as to when Beef Calf Scheme and Ewe Hogg payments are likely to be made should also be asked immediately."
"If LFASS payments are delayed, this will have a devastating impact on sheep and hill farmers in Scotland. Farmers are already beside themselves with worry and many have had to refinance with lenders. It is bad enough that Scottish farmers continue to be let down by Richard Lochead's department on basic payments, with only 40% having received any money at all so far, but we are now seeing the wholly predictable knock on effect."
"This is not the way to treat an industry. I call on Richard Lochhead to tell us exactly what the situation is regarding LFAAS payments. The information vacuum is harming Scottish farmers and they deserve infinitely better."
Notes to editors:
1. Ian Duncan is the Conservative MEP for Scotland and Chairs the ECR Rural Affairs Policy Group.
2. Sybil Macpherson is the Chairman of the National Sheep Association Scotland http://www.nationalsheep.org.uk/contacts/nsa-regions/scotland/
3. Comments from Richard Lochhead regarding 'financial difficulties' https://www.fginsight.com/news/lochhead-apologises-for-bps-debacle-and-announces-20m-emergency-loan-9960