Scottish dairy farmers run the risk of missing out on valuable dairy aid scheme money and NFU Scotland is urging them to act now.
Scottish Government issued a news release on the scheme opening but it has not written directly to all 900 dairy farmers informing them about it. Instead, the application form can be downloaded electronically or requested from local SGRPID offices. Guidance on the scheme is also available from the Scottish Dairy Hub.
Poor uptake suggests that information on this valuable support scheme is only slowly filtering out to farmers. The deadline is 1 May and, to date, only one in five of Scottish dairy farmers have applied for payments ranging between £1000 and £4000.
In 2016, the EU Commission recognised the crisis in the sector and set aside £350 million to be shared out between each member state to contribute to dairy market stabilisation. The UK was allocated £25 million, with Scotland receiving £2.4 million.
Under the terms of the Scottish scheme, the highest payment rate, £4,000, is available to farmers on Bute, Arran, Mull, and the Kintyre peninsula to protect the supply base for Campbeltown creamery. Farmers who were paid a milk price of less than 20p per litre during 2016 can receive £3,250; farmers who were receiving under 25p could get £2,000 each, while those farmers who received 25p per litre or more can receive £1,000.
As the scheme is linked to improving efficiency, producers must commit to simple production profiling and milk recording to qualify. An estimated two-thirds of Scottish dairy herds already milk record on a regular basis.
NFU Scotland’s Milk Policy Manager George Jamieson said: “Scottish dairy farmers cannot afford to miss out on the financial support currently available to them through this scheme and I urge them to crack on with applying before 1 May. Given the fragile state of our dairy sector, funding of between £1000 and £4000 is available. With feed and fertiliser prices rising, and milk prices levelling off, this is money that will be welcome to all.
“To be clear, this is the second financial offering from the EU commission designed to drive future dairy market stabilisation and sustainability. The first part, the short-term EU-wide volume reduction scheme, has helped to consolidate the rising market backed by increased intervention for dairy commodities. This second scheme is at member state level, with Scotland having £2.4 million available for our dairy farmers.
“To secure those funds, Europe has insisted that producers commit to actions that will help them cope with future market volatility. The Scottish Government, in consultation with industry stakeholders including NFUS has agreed that simple production profiling and milk recording are appropriate. These both offer opportunities to manage, with more certainty, milk production in line with market needs, and create a vast amount of data that will be useful to the individual farmer and the sector.
“We urge all producers to get a copy of the application form, read the guidance and apply for this funding. The funds are significant, particularly for those who have been receiving the poorest milk prices over a prolonged period, and the wider benefits on production profiling and milk recording we believe could be of lasting benefit.”