Almost a dozen Scottish farming organisations have united to ask the Scottish Government to accelerate support payments to help the industry cope with cash flow issues.
Writing to Rural Secretary Mairi Gougeon, the organisations – which include tenant farmers and landowners, auctioneers, the farmers’ union, QMS and sheep, dairy, pig and beef national associations – state unprecedented input cost inflation is causing many farmers to reassess their production choices.
Some even fear the critical mass of Scotland’s agri-food sector is at risk.
They write: “Right now, the key to safeguarding the food supply chain in Scotland, and all the allied businesses and associated jobs it underpins, is cash flow. Therefore, we are collectively calling on the Scottish Government to utilise all options at its disposal to pay the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) and Greening as soon as it possibly can.
“Such a step could help to build confidence across the industry.”
The Scottish Government has already indicated that for 2022 it intends to make “advanced” BPS and Greening payments from mid-October, using the scope of the Agriculture (EU Retained Law and Data) (Scotland) Act 2020. But the co-signatories warn this would not go far enough.
“That intention was set out before the current input cost crisis fully took grip and the advanced payments schedule proposed would, in fact, see farmers and crofters receive support payments later than under previous years’ “loan” scheme,” they state.
The stakeholders make it clear that the collective request to bring forward payments is not a call for additional funding.
They add: “This is about the accelerated delivery of already committed resources in order that input cost rises can be endured and to help ensure the continuity of agricultural production at economically sustainable levels.
“Given the urgency of the situation, we would welcome a quick response. We are ready to engage with your officials to consider what options are available and how best they might be used to help address the current concerns of so many farmers and crofters and all those who rely on them.”
The letter emphasises the current challenges faced by farmers will have implications for downstream businesses that rely on agriculture.