Agri-Environment applicants the latest casualties
The ongoing failure around Scottish Government’s system for delivering support has seen it unable to inform farmers on the success or failure of their applications to the 2015 agri-environment schemes.
Despite having many months to process fewer than 700 agri-environment forms, those who applied to 2015 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) have yet to receive notice and the 2016 AECS failed to open on 11 January as planned. At this time, the AECS online application process is unavailable.
The latest problems follow on from the significant delays being experienced by Scottish Government in distributing support payments under the new Basic Payment Scheme. By the end of December 2015, Scottish Government had issued 18 percent of BPS claimants with part payment – well short of the 25 percent target that the Scottish Government had set itself.
NFU Scotland has already called for a new statement on BPS timetable to be issued by Scottish Government and the need for that statement to clearly reflect the impact that the ongoing IT failure will have on other payment runs, such as agri-environment schemes, Less Favoured Areas support and coupled support schemes for beef calves and ewe hoggs. Applications for the next BPS scheme year are also due to open shortly.
NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie said: “The catalogue of scheme delays as a result of ongoing IT failure is lengthening and the need for a clarifying statement from Scottish Government becomes more urgent.
“The important agri-environment scheme is the latest casualty and despite having a relatively small number of claims for the 2015 scheme to process, many of which are straightforward reinstatements of expired agreements, the system has failed to cope.
“To compound matters, Scottish Government communications with AECS applicants has been poor. That has meant that work for 2015 applications has been put on hold and, with the 2016 scheme failing to open on 11 January as planned, important environmental work in Scotland is in limbo.
“NFU Scotland has been pressing Scottish Government, both in public and in private, on the urgent need to get its act together on AECS, as well as BPS and Greening payments, LFASS and coupled support schemes.
“Continued delays and uncertainty are coming at a time when many Scottish farming businesses are under severe cash-flow pressures. We fully appreciate that Scottish Government staff are working flat out to resolve ongoing issues but they need to get clear messages out to grass roots farmers on when delays are going to be resolved; when BPS monies will start flowing; when AECS applications will be approved and what implications ongoing delays have for other vital schemes such as LFASS and beef and hogg headage payments.”

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