Scottish Government launches agricultural Covid loan scheme to boost cash flow

The Scottish government has launched a new loan scheme for farmers to allow help them maintain cash flow during the Covid-19 crisis.

With the additional uncertainty caused by Brexit, the National Basic Payment Support Scheme will maintain vital cash flow for farm and croft businesses by injecting up to £340 million into the rural economy.

The scheme will give farmers and crofters access to vital financial support up to three months earlier than the EU CAP payment period, helping them continue to operate during the crisis.

Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing said: “Our farmers and crofters are vital to Scotland’s economy, putting food on our plates during this unprecedented crisis.

“As the end of the Brexit transition period approaches at the end of this year, these farmers will only be feeling additional anxiety, so it is essential that they have the cash flow they need to continue operating.

While we had considered using the Advanced Payment option to process CAP basic payments earlier than in previous years, Covid-19 made us reconsider whether this could deliver as much support as quickly as a loan scheme.

“Our absolute priority is ensuring farmers and crofters receive their payments as we move towards a full exit from the EU, so we have decided to offer a further loan scheme so that farmers can access this support at the earliest ever point.

“I would encourage anyone who would like to accept their loan offer to do so by email where they can, to allow us to process these important payments as quickly as possible.”

The loan scheme provides Scottish farmers and crofters access of up to 95% of their 2020 CAP BPS and Greening payment, restricted to a maximum of £133,638.

Loan offer letters will be sent to eligible farmers and crofters from the beginning of August, with the first payments due in September.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said the decision would offer “certainty and stability” at a time of unpredictable change.

“Covid-19 has caused a huge amount of uncertainty throughout agriculture, as it has for almost every other industry, and it will come as a great relief to many farmers and crofters who still need to be able to invest in their business in order to continue to feed the nation – as well as provided much-needed cash flow ahead of unknown winter period that will undoubtedly be dominated by Brexit challenges,” he said.

“The ability for Scottish Government to make what will be effectively advanced payments is also testament to claimants sticking to the May 15 application deadline, despite the unprecedented circumstances this year.

Knowing the loan scheme is coming will provide some much-needed reassurance to all farmers and crofters, helping anyone who needs to talk to their bank about borrowings get through these uncertain times.

“I would urge all to opt into this year’s scheme and to do so by email where possible to ensure payments are processed and made as soon as possible.”