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NFU Scotland calls for public funding to be delivered as direct support for agriculture

By David Porter

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NFU Scotland has called on the Scottish Government to prioritise precious public funding in the future by delivering it as direct support under its proposed four-tier agricultural policy.

With £620 million of Scottish agricultural support coming from Westminster, the viability of Scottish agriculture and all it will deliver in the future is dependent on securing an overall support package available for spend within the new four-tiered agricultural support framework.

NFU Scotland continues to meet with HM Treasury, Scotland Office and the main political parties at Westminster to ensure the continuity of Scotland’s agricultural and rural funding from the UK Government beyond 2024.

However, a critical issue is how that funding is then allocated by Scottish Government and its proposed support framework from 2025 onwards to provide conditional payments under four tiers: Base, Enhanced, Elective, and Complementary.

Direct support for Scotland’s farmers and crofters is delivered primarily through the Basic Payment Scheme, Greening, Voluntary Coupled Support for beef calves and upland sheep and the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme and adds up to around £550 million per year, but with no certainty beyond 2024. With the total figure for Scottish Government’s Agriculture and Rural Economy (ARE) spending equivalent to about £680 million, it means some 80 per cent is paid out as direct support.

NFUS has written to Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Mairi Gougeon MSP calling unequivocally for 80 per cent of the future support package to continue be dedicated as direct support to Tiers 1 and 2.

The Union believes that would underpin and incentivise agricultural activity and management changes to drive productivity while building resilience and environmental benefits.

NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy.
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy.

NFU Scotland President Martin Kennedy said: “Maintaining direct support funding to farming and crofting businesses across Scotland will protect £3 billion of expenditure in the wider rural economy and more than £3.5 billion of output as we are the first link in the supply chain of Scotland’s iconic food and drinks sector.

“Quite simply, guaranteeing that existing direct support will be delivered as both conditional area-based and action-based payments, in Tiers 1 and 2 respectively, will ensure farmers and crofters tackle the triple challenge of food, climate and biodiversity head on and will see rural communities thrive.”

NFU Scotland believes that, to achieve the policy objectives relating to food production, climate and biodiversity, we must retain at least 50 per cent of direct support as a base payment in Tier 1, with the levers of effective cross-compliance, as is the case now, doing the work that rules and regulations cannot.

"The same principles then extend into the future Tier 2 enhanced measures where the remaining 50 per cent of direct support must be exclusively targeted.

"This is where direct support will deliver more on climate and nature, building on the foundations of Tier 1 base direct support and incentivising farmers and crofters to do the right things in the right places to deliver the right outcomes.

Mr Kennedy concludes: “The successes we are all seeking as a nation around food security, climate and nature will require buy-in and commitment from all Scotland’s farming and crofting businesses. Allocating at least 80 per cent of Scotland’s total agricultural budget as direct support payments via Tiers 1 and 2 of the proposed agricultural support framework for Scotland will deliver this.”

NFU Scotland has briefed MSPs ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament this week on underlining the need to continue to allocate 80 per cent of future funding as direct support and calling for an agricultural policy that rewards agricultural activity, drives efficiency and productivity while building resilience and enhancing our environment.

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