At this week’s Agriculture and Rural Development (ARD) Stakeholders Group meeting (was previously CAP Stakeholders Group), updates on IT and other rural support payments matters were given.
CAP Payments – IT related delays
2015 Pillar 1 payments
There is a very small tail of basic payment scheme payments to be made; just over 30. The couple-support schemes have a similarly low number of claimants still to be paid.
2015 SRDP payments
There are a larger number of LFASS applicants still awaiting payment, around 1700, but this number should be substantially reduced as a result of the March 2017 payments run. LMO and rural priorities payments, including annual recurrent payments for agri-environment and forestry schemes, are over 90% completed.
2016 payments (all)
13,172 businesses been paid loans until full 2016 payments made. Loan scheme closed 20 January, although small process to pay top-up loans for those with entitlements transfers is continuing.
There is an intention to pay 2016 payments by the end of June 2017, which is within normal EU requirements. However, a detailed payments timetable is still to be supplied. Nevertheless, basic payment scheme payments should start sometime in March.
Interim letters should have been received by all those with entitlement transfers outstanding. This is aimed at giving comfort until such time as the IT system can make the formal transfers. This functionality is still to be delivered by the IT provider.
Overpayments were made to 166 people. They have been contacted and invoices sent out to ask for overpayment amount back.
SRDP scheme application rounds
2016 AECS and IPA Application Rounds
Decisions have been made on the 2016 applicants to these schemes. Applicants should now have been notified of the outcome and contracts issued to those that have been successful.
A blow to some will be the withdrawal of the ECAF (Environmental Co-operation Action Fund) scheme very late in the process. The Scottish Government advise that the scheme did not satisfy all of the audit requirements necessary to proceed, but they hope to address these and re-launch the scheme during 2017.
2017 AECS and IPA Application Rounds
A number of schemes are open or are due to open shortly. For the latest on 2017 schemes, go to www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/schemes-overview/
Areas of Natural Constraint (to replace LFASS)
The Areas of Natural Constraint scheme, which is to replace LFASS, is in theory to be introduced in 2018. However, development of the new approach has been put on hold by the Scottish Government following the vote to leave the EU. Assuming Article 50 is triggered this Spring, there is a feeling that a replacement scheme would be in force for such a short period of time that it hardly seems to justify the considerable effort that would be involved to introduce it. Nevertheless, there is still a possibility that if not introduced in Scotland, even for a short period of time, the Government would be subject to EU fines. An alternative approach, which is acceptable to the EU, is to continue with LFASS but reduce the payment rates to around 80% of the current rate. A decision on this matter is with the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing MSP, and we await his announcement.
Agriculture Champions to take forward Agriculture Strategy for Scotland
In January, Fergus Ewing MSP announced the appointment of four Agriculture Champions to advise on the development of a strategy for the sector.
The Agriculture Champions will help develop an Agriculture Strategy to guide the long-term sustainable future for Scottish agriculture, by increasing profitability and boosting innovation, production and sustainability.
Each Champion will be paired across four themes:
- Education and Training Champion - Henry Graham, Scottish Chair of Lantra
- Food and Drink Champion - Archie Gibson, Chair of the Scottish Food and Drink Federation
- Sustainability Champion - John Kinnaird, Farmer and Former President of NFUS
- Public Value Champion - Marion MacCormick, Buying Director for ALDI
The Agriculture Champions are setting up working groups to take forward work with their themes. More on this in due course.