Cuts to Scotland’s LFASS payments ‘unacceptable’

National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland has called for Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing to hold LFA support at current levels during a meeting at Grantown-on-Spey.

NFU Scotland has deemed any cut to lifeline Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme (LFASS) payments as “unacceptable”.

LFA farmers and crofters are set to see their vital payments cut by 20% in 2019, followed by a possible 80% cut in 2020, with complete uncertainty from then on.

The Scottish Government has said it is unable to provide any certainty beyond 2019 and put this down to a lack of clear assurances from the UK Government on post-Brexit guarantees.

It is NFU Scotland’s position that the LFASS payments are vital to Scottish farming and crofting businesses, and the Scottish Government needs to continue to provide support at its current level of £65 million through 2019 and 2020.

Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing MSP, attended the LFASS Committee meeting on Thursday, August 30 to hear first hand from the Union’s LFA representatives and to discuss possible solutions to make up any enforced shortfall in LFASS payments directly to those farmers and crofters who deliver so much via this lifeline support.

In a separate meeting, Ewing also met with members of the Union’s Crofting, Highlands and Islands committee.

NFU Scotland LFA Committee Chairman Robert Macdonald said: “It was good to welcome the Cabinet Secretary to the meeting today and hear directly from farmers and crofters on just how these proposed cuts will affect them, their businesses and their communities.

LFASS payments provide a vital financial boost to farmers and crofters who are trying forge a living out of some of the hardest land in the country. For them to lose out on any of this support would not only be devastating for their businesses but also for the natural environments which they tend to.

“We have made Mr. Ewing fully aware of our concerns today and he has been given a great deal of food for thought as he returns to Holyrood.”

‘Absolutely vital’

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick, who attended the meeting, said: “Farmers and crofters in these disadvantaged areas provide a vast array of economic, environmental and social benefits to not only their local communities but also Scotland as a whole.

The essential LFASS payment does not just support farmers and crofters in rural areas but also the surrounding communities, getting reinvested into local businesses and almost immediately supporting the rural economy, providing employment and opportunities.

“The difficult weather over the last 18 months and the added costs which farmers and crofters have had to pay for bedding and fodder has only vindicated the Union’s position that the LFASS payments are absolutely vital and any cut in them must be avoided at all costs.”