NFU Scotland calls on Scottish Government to rebase Vital Less Favoured Areas Scheme
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With Scotland’s Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) set to continue until at least 2026, NFU Scotland is calling on Scottish Government to rebase the scheme so that the £65.5 million fund is better targeted at those keeping beef cattle and sheep in Scotland’s uplands and islands.
Within Scottish Government’s Route Map for agricultural policy reform, announced at NFU Scotland’s AGM in February, it indicated that the LFA scheme will continue until 2026 but with potential changes in 2025, such as new conditions on delivery.
NFU Scotland has long argued that much more effective targeting of LFASS funding could be achieved if it were ‘rebased’ in the interest of creating a fairer system.
The scheme is currently run on historic livestock numbers based on cattle and sheep being kept in 2009.
However, over the past 13 years, many agricultural businesses have restructured.
Some will have increased eligible livestock numbers, and some will have reduced them.
To address this flaw, given the intention to now retain LFASS to 2026, NFU Scotland asks the Scottish Government to rebase LFASS using much more contemporary livestock data.
Ideally the Union believes it should be based on information on cattle and sheep already gathered for 2022 as the most recent ‘closed’ year.
NFU Scotland also seeks the retention of the current £65.5 million LFASS budget and that any ‘underspend’ as a result of the rebasing exercise be recycled back into LFASS through increased payment rates.
NFU Scotland’s LFA Committee chair, Peter Kennedy from Glendaruel, Argyll said: “The £65.5 million available through LFASS enables farmers and crofters to deliver so much for Scotland’s fragile rural economy.
"It allows them to deliver high quality red meat, maintain vibrant rural communities, enhance biodiversity and guarantee the many other public benefits delivered by Scotland’s hills, uplands and islands.
“Rebasing provides a way of better targeting that precious LFASS pot, particularly given that its real value has eroded over time as input costs for farmers and crofters have soared.
"Rebasing gives greater fairness and equality to the scheme.
“Rebasing and a retention of the existing £65.5 million budget could enable increases in the current payment rates, as well as ensuring this support is more effectively targeted at those actively keeping cattle and sheep. The Scottish Government set the precedent for this in 2009 when rebasing lead to significant uplifts in payment rates.
“In addition, rebasing of LFASS should also account for new and developing businesses and would avoid creating so-called ‘anomaly’ cases as has happened with previous rebasing exercises. "Nevertheless, NFU Scotland would like to see an effective and accessible appeals mechanism for any agricultural business that might be ‘frozen’ out or significantly disadvantaged as a result of restructuring or being a new entrant.”