It was the same old story at yesterday’s NFU Scotland’s AGM & conference –both First Minister Humza Yousaf and rural affairs secretary Mairi Gougeon failed to give farmers future funding details they have been waiting on for almost 8 years.
Addressing farmers, crofters and industry stakeholders, the First Minister’s speech was long in duration but short in the ”nitty gritty” details.
Mr Yousaf did state however that at least 70% of future support will be direct payments paid in Tiers 1 and 2 of the new agricultural policy – the tiers that will reflect most closely to schemes such as Basic Payment Scheme and Greening.
Lack of nitty gritty details
Funding for the replacement of the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) – which is currently worth £65 million and applies to the majority of Scottish farmers – would likely be an extra 10% on top of that 70% and be made available through Tier 2 once the replacement scheme has been decided.
With only Mairi Gougeon available to take part in a press huddle after the session, she said the Scottish Government is still on track to set out the conditions of the route map.
She said more information on the likes of the Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme and the Whole Farm Plan will be announced in the coming weeks.
“We still have to figure out what a future scheme to replace LFASS would look like but we know how critical LFASS is to the farmers that receive it and we are very much committed to maintain that type of support,” added Ms Gougeon.
Scottish Suckler Beef Support Scheme and Whole Farm Plan announcement expected in coming weeks
NFUS president Martin Kennedy said: “The huge unknown is all of this is what agricultural funding will be made available to Scotland by Westminster and that we have no certainties beyond the end of the current parliament. We are in an election year, and we have made our case clear that we need at least another £1b to be added to the UK budget for agriculture.
“Under the current financial arrangement, that would see at least another £170m to go into the Scottish agricultural budget. We already have the backing of the Lib Dems on this extra £1b and they have agreed to this in their manifesto. We want that same commitment from all other parties when manifestos start to emerge.
“For our highly productive, unsupported sectors such as pigs, poultry, horticulture and potatoes, funding in Tiers 3 and 4 will be vital in providing support for business development, investment and growth.”
Both the First Minister and Ms Gougeon said that the entire sum of £61m of deferred funding would return to the agricultural budget but couldn’t commit to a date.
Meanwhile, Highland tenant farmer Mike Munro challenged the First Minister on proposals of new national parks being made across the country and received an applause from the room.
Highland tenant farmer hits out on national park scandal
He said: “A lot of our members in the Western Isles are living with substandard ferry services and local authorities who are unable to deliver what they need to do because the budgets aren’t there to deliver.
“How can you justify the additional costs of new national parks when we have seen all the issues that the current ones bring? You (First Minister) said earlier that you don’t want to impose any more burden on us so where are we going with this?”
Mr Yousaf said that consideration for national parks is still open for consultation and that other national parks bring huge economic benefits through tourism.
He said that he didn’t want to impose more burden on the agricultural industry and promised that the government would engage.