Scotland: National Reserve applications open

The National Reserve is now open to applications, and farmers who were frozen out under the old Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) can now apply for Basic Payment Scheme entitlements by submitting an Allocation of Entitlements application form.Successful applicants will receive payment entitlements at the regional average value.

Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead is urging farmers across Scotland to ensure they get their applications in ahead of the deadline on May 15. He said:
“I would encourage all farmers who are eligible for the funding to apply. Thanks to our success in negotiations with Europe, we have a National Reserve that goes beyond the mandatory categories of Young Farmers and New Entrants. Now under the new scheme, past new entrants all the way back to the reference period for the Single Farm Payment – hardworking farmers who were wholly or partly frozen out under the old CAP – will receive basic payments at the regional average.”

“I am confident that this approach will immediately address the unfair treatment that hundreds of farmers faced over the past few years, while continuing to respect the strict conditions contained in the EU regulations.We are providing the best possible support for Young Farmers, who will be able to claim top-ups to their basic payment on the maximum number of hectares allowed. Of course, all active farmers, including those disadvantaged under the old CAP, will be eligible for other elements of support, such as Greening and coupled support, as well as Scottish Rural Development Programme funding.”

“The deadline for applying for funds through the Allocation of Entitlements form – which includes the National Reserve – is May 15. However I would urge farmers to do this as soon as possible and not leave it until the last minute, to avoid any delays a late application may cause to their payments. It’s important to note that businesses which were eligible to receive a payment under the Single Farm Payment scheme or the Scottish Beef Scheme in respect of the 2013 scheme year do not need to submit an Allocation of Entitlements form as their application for entitlements will be submitted as part of the Single Application Form 2015. These businesses will only need to submit an Allocation of Entitlements application if they also wish to apply for an award from the National Reserve or have entered into a Private Contract Clause agreement.”

“It is also extremely important that every farmer who intends to access support, whether through the National Reserve, Basic Payment Scheme or Rural Development measures, registers – or re-registers in the case of existing businesses – with the new Rural Payments and Services system. Doing so now will enable them to use our new online services if they choose, but more importantly will allow us to get their business details and any funding allocations correct.”

The National Reserve is the name given to the pool of money taken from the funds available for the Basic Payment Scheme in Scotland that is used to fund the allocation of entitlements to New Entrants and Young Farmers, and to top-up the entitlement value of those disadvantaged under the old CAP.

Those who can receive funding through the National Reserve are:

– New Entrants – farmers who started an agricultural activity in 2013 or later, who have not had any agricultural activity in their own name or at their own risk in the five years before the start of their current farming action.
– Young Farmer – farmers who are no older than 40 years of age on 31 December on the year they apply for an award, and who are setting up for the first time as head of the holding.
– Force Majeure or Exceptional Circumstance – farmers who experienced a force majeure/exceptional circumstance event which has affected the potential value of their payment entitlements under the Basic Payment Scheme.
– Specific Disadvantage – farmers who were allocated ‘National Reserve’ type entitlements in 2005 as a result of an application under the ‘New Entrant’ or ‘Investor’ categories of the 2005 National Reserve; or farmers who did not receive an automatic allocation of payment entitlements in 2005, which includes businesses that have purchased entitlements in any year from 2006 and still held these in 2014.

Mr Lochhead also announced today that, following advice from the European Commission, the Scottish Government is dropping the 2013/15 rule, due to incompatibility with other direct payment eligibility provisions, and will use the wider access provision instead. This will ensure that the Scottish Government can retain wider access for recent new entrants and ensure fairer treatment for genuinely expanding businesses which may have been at a disadvantage under the 2013/15 rule.

He said:”The Commission advised that the decision to use both the 2013/15 rule and the wider access provision would not ensure equal treatment to all farmers, and the Scottish Government could essentially be accused of discriminating between new and existing farmers. Therefore the advice from Europe is that we cannot go ahead without excluding people. It’s disappointing but we have no choice but to use only the wider access provision – doing this will ensure that businesses which have genuinely expanded between 2013 and now will be allocated entitlements based on their eligible land claimed in 2015, and will not be restricted to the land they claimed in 2013, which was one of the concerns raised by stakeholders. It also means that we will retain the wider access clause, allowing automatic access to payment entitlements for farmers who were actively farming in 2013 without Single Farm Payments, therefore avoiding the need for these farmers to claim entitlements through the National Reserve.”

Detailed guidance for all Pillar 1 schemes and the Pillar 2 Agri-Environment Climate Scheme (AECS) and Forestry Grant Scheme (FGS) under the new CAP will be published on Rural Payments and Services (https://www.ruralpayments.org ) on 6 February 2015. Other Pillar 2 detailed scheme guidance, such as the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme, will be published later in February.

Commenting on the Scottish Government’s news release on National Reserve released today, 28 January, NFUS President Nigel Miller said: “This is an important milestone in constructing the new farm support scheme. For new entrants and some developing business this is the crucial gateway into full area support.

“The National Reserve is complex but in crude terms it is there to support all farmers who have never previously been allocated entitlements under previous and the present support scheme. It also offers new entitlements for some categories of developer that claimed entitlements under the 2005 National Reserve. If unsure it’s important to take advice.

“The National Reserve is not the catch all we had lobbied for but it will be of real value to many who have fought their way into the industry and a simple pathway to full area payment for those that started faming since the last reform.”

Commenting on the 2013/15 announcement, Jonnie Hall, Director of Policy for NFU Scotland said: “The necessary ditching of the so-called 2013/2015 rule is also a significant step in finalising the mechanics of how the new CAP will work in Scotland. As with many key decisions, there is a real double-edge with this issue.Wider access to new entrants and expanding businesses is important, but that also reaffirms our commitment to ensuring all those occupying eligible land must actively farm it to justify new area-based payments. These are two significant steps towards final Basic Payment Scheme arrangements and we will be issuing more information to our members over the next few days.”

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