Suggestions that other farm sectors should “carry the cost” of the cuts being made to the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) has been dismissed as “wholly unacceptable” by NFU Scotland’s director of policy, Jonnie Hall.
“Robbing Peter to pay Paul is simply unacceptable,” he said, noting that the debate over how to make up the shortfall in LFASS support for hill farmers and crofters has ignited misplaced suggestions that other sectors have to carry the cost.
He said such suggestions would be “damaging” and “amount to an overall erosion of Scotland’s already woeful agricultural support settlement”.
Agreeing there is clearly a challenge ahead to secure funding to make good the LFASS shortfall of 20% this year, rising to a potential 80% next year, he said the union was “unequivocal” in its view that there should be absolutely no manipulation of the current payment rates of the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) to offset any LFASS loss.
He said: “Reducing Region 1 payments would significantly and adversely impact on more productive land across Scotland. This would disadvantage arable producers, not least in comparison with English counterparts, with any increased chasm between Scottish growers and those in the rest of the UK, or the EU, severely undermining the sector.”
Cutting Region 1 BPS payments, which apply to better quality agricultural land, would significantly hinder all of Scotland’s more productive land, he continued.
As a result, all land under permanent and temporary grass, cereals, potatoes, vegetables and other cropping would be hit. “It would be naive to think reducing these payments would have anything other than a damaging effect across all sectors,” he added.