The SNP’s rural economy secretary has confirmed the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments will likely drop to 40% of current levels over the next two years.
Gordon MP Colin Clark, who sits on the Agriculture Bill committee at Westminster, has described the SNP’s intent as a ‘major let-down’ for livestock farmers.
Compulsory changes to EU regulations mean payments must drop by 20% this year but the SNP’s Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing indicated his Government will take advantage of EU proposals to go further.
Mr Clark said: “The industry has braced itself for an initial cut of 20% and this was confirmed in the SNP’s budget.
“But further cuts are unpalatable to farmers in my constituency and could have disastrous consequences for their business and our economy.”
He added: “The SNP have had four years to plan their own alternative to LFASS but have sat on their hands while farmers remained in the dark.
“It is my concern the SNP spend the £65 million LFASS budget to shore up their failing projects elsewhere, leaving farmers high and dry,” Mr Clark said.
NFU Scotland previously warned the net result of cuts to LFASS, unless reversed, will be a further demise of the more extensive livestock sectors, the red meat sector in general, the Scotch brand it underpins, and the risk of yet more land abandonment in some quarters.
Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing said: ““I fully accept that this is not ideal, but under changes to EU regulations there is no option but to revise payment rates down. Importantly, we are clear this change will not impact on those who receive the minimum payment of £385, which is not being reduced.
“Our hill farmers and crofters continue to face significant challenges from both adverse weather and Brexit uncertainties and we are already seeing reduced livestock numbers and land abandonment.
“Therefore, I will continue to strongly push for further revisions and have submitted proposed amendments to give more flexibility in setting the rates for 2020 – a move I fully expect the UK Government to support.”
Source: Farming UK