Eligible ewe hoggs to be receive €78 per head

NFU Scotland understands that payments under the new Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSSS) are likely to start tomorrow (28 July), but at a payment rate that will be lower than expected.

The new scheme is designed to assist active hill farmers and crofters through a payment coupled to the number of ewe hoggs they keep as breeding replacements for their flocks.  The Union understands that the vast majority of successful claimants should expect to receive a payment in the next few days.

The rate per eligible hogg – just over €78 – is below the original estimated rate of closer to €100 and reflects the fact that more ewe hoggs were claimed than was expected. The scheme has a fixed budget of €8 million per annum, however the payment rate for eligible animals will vary depending on the total number of eligible animals claimed in the scheme year.

For the future, NFU Scotland believes improvements to the scheme can be made and a window of opportunity exists for the Scottish Government to have changes approved by Europe that will fine tune SUSSS in time for the 2017 scheme. The Union has already written to the Scottish Government with these suggestions, which included a wider application period; a new retention period; and linking the total number of ewe hoggs a producer can claim to a percentage of their breeding flock.

Less Favoured Areas Committee Chairman Martin Kennedy commented: “We fought hard for a coupled sheep payment to be part of the new CAP schemes to ensure that Scotland’s limited budget could be targeted in the best way possible at active farmers.

“While the rate of payment is disappointing compared to what farmers and crofters were expecting, it is much better that these precious funds are delivered as a coupled sheep payment to those actively keeping sheep than the money being simply spread across all region 3 land.

“I would urge crofters and farmers who are receiving the new Upland Sheep Support Scheme payment to keep in mind the total amount of money they are receiving under the new CAP schemes – BPS, greening, LFASS, beef calf scheme and SUSSS – for all their land, sheep and cattle and then balance that against a background where the whole agricultural budget has been cut.

“For sheep producers who receive the new SUSSS payment, we believe this scheme is a vital element of the support that they need to viably run their farm or croft.

“We have proposed a number of changes to the scheme in order to make it more applicant friendly and will continue to press the Scottish Government to deliver these changes.”

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