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22 December 2010 09:36:40 |News

Christmas boost to farm payment schedule


End year target exceeded with £436 million to be paid out by end of week
As farmers across Scotland face up to the ongoing severe weather difficulties, significant efforts have been made to process Single Farm Payments as quickly as possible to get vital funds into farm bank accounts.
Figures published today show that £436 million will have been paid to farmers in time for Christmas, with payments having begun at the start of December.
This means that 92 per-cent of producers – around 17,700 farmers – will have received their funding by the end of this week, a significant advance on the earlier forecast of 90 per-cent of payments being made by the end of the year. Payments will continue to be processed in the week before Hogmanay, so the end-of-year figures will be even higher, with all payments is Scotland due to be made by the end of January - well inside the EU’s mid-2011 deadline.
Welcoming the progress, Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead said:



"Farmers across the country are having to deal with extraordinary and very difficult weather conditions, so it has been important that all that can be done has been done to get the Single Farm Payments processed and paid as quickly as possible.
"While our farmers have been hard at work keeping their businesses going and the food supply chain running in the worst end-year conditions we’ve seen in around 50 years, a lot of work has been going on behind the scenes to get millions of pounds of vital payments out of the door and into farmers’ accounts.
"The result of this focussed activity is that almost 18,000 farmers – or 92 per-cent of the total – will have received their Single Farm Payments by Christmas Day, a much higher figure than the 90 per-cent we’d been forecasting only a few weeks ago.
"I appreciate that the funding is not the answer to all the issues that farmers are facing just now, but getting these payments processed provides vital financial support at a time where the cost of feedstuffs and other running costs are high.
"My officials and I remain in constant contact with all key agriculture stakeholders to ensure that their weather concerns and issues are picked up and dealt with, where possible, as quickly and effectively.
"I am aware, for example, of the call to try and match our SFP performance with a similar result on LFASS. Farmers can be assured that, despite issues caused by the weather disruption, we are making every effort to pay LFASS on time.
"This partnership approach has helped us secure vital relaxations of EU Drivers’ Hours rules for feed deliveries and pig movements, and we have been working with all involved to speed up deliveries of diesel and heating oil to rural communities."



Background
At the start of the payment window for SFP on December 1, 15,700 farmers received funding of around £373 million. That represented 81 per-cent of Scottish farmers getting their SFP support immediately. All payments are due to be made by around the end of January - well inside the EU’s mid-2011 deadline.
The Single Farm Payment Scheme is the replacement for historic arable and livestock direct support schemes in Scotland and this is the sixth year of operation.
The Scottish Government’s payment timetable means that Scottish farmers will receive their payments ahead of colleagues elsewhere.
Farmers applied for this year’s scheme in May 2010. European Regulations fix a payment window, which means that payments can be made between December 1, 2010 and June 30, 2011.
As well as speed of payment, Scottish farmers are given a choice of how SFP is paid, with a significant number of producers (more than 3,600 or 20 per cent) opting to take their Single Farm Payment in Euros.
Farmers and crofters also now given the opportunity to use the Scottish Government’s electronic channel to submit their single application forms upon which their SFP depends and this year around 8,600 or 40 per cent of producers have chosen to do so.
As well as reducing paper and delivering a cost saving benefit, the online system provides applicants with 24-hour access, dedicated helpdesk support and an instant receipt. The system also runs some basic checks to prevent applicants making common mistakes in their application, which means that farmers submitting online are actually helping the Scottish Government to pay more people, faster than would otherwise be the case.
Farmers with outstanding SFP queries concerning eligibility or who have not provided up-to-date bank account details cannot receive payment and these are the main reasons for the very small percentage of farmers who might not receive their payment in December.




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