Hard-pressed hill sector set for LFASS loans offer

Mail falling from letterbox onto doormat (Digitally Enhanced)

Loan offer letters for Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments will begin arriving on farms and crofts across Scotland in the weeks ahead.

NFU Scotland said the letters are expected to outline an offer of a loan for 90% of last year’s scheme payment to around 11,000 eligible hill farmers and crofters.

The loan scheme was announced by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing at the union’s annual general meeting last month.

It is expected to inject up to £55million into the rural economy next month.

NFU Scotland’s less favoured areas committee chairman Robert MacDonald, who farms at Castle Grant Home Farm near Grantown, said LFASS payments were a vital source of funding for the most vulnerable farmers and crofters in Scotland.

“It is particularly important that those in less favoured areas are on the front foot in terms of funding this year, following on from the dreadful weather we suffered last summer and autumn,” said Mr MacDonald.

“This early LFASS payment loan is an excellent opportunity for those with hill ground to get the much-needed funding as early as possible and I would encourage anyone who receives a loan letter to fill out the form sooner rather than later.”

Mr MacDonald called on the Scottish Government to ensure timely payments of Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme and Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme monies.

He said farmers and crofters needed these payments by May at the very latest, to help them meet costs from the challenging winter.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said last night: “We welcome NFU Scotland’s support for the LFASS loan scheme, which will inject up to £55million in our most remote and rural communities – safeguarding jobs and providing financial security in the months ahead.

“We will continue to protect and grow our rural economy and would therefore encourage eligible farmers and crofters to strongly consider taking up the offer of a loan.”

Eligible farmers and crofters will be offered a loan of up to 90% of their estimated LFASS 2017 payment, with payments beginning in April to anyone returning their opt-in acceptance by March 30.

Anyone who claimed LFASS in 2017, and who does not receive a loan letter, should contact their local RPID area office.