First Minister Humza Yousaf announces Scottish agriculture funding commitments
First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf spoke at the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland conference, unveiling the Government’s funding commitment to Scottish agriculture.
First Minister Yousaf responded to NFU President Martin Kennedy’s five asks of Government, which saw Kennedy call for further additions to the Scottish agricultural budget.
Kennedy also urged Scottish Government to return the £61 million of deferred funding, called for fairness throughout the supply chain and asked that the Bute House agreement be scrapped entirely.
Yousaf informed delegates that funding for Tiers 1 and 2 will constitute at least 70% of the overall funding envelope to support farming, crofting and land management from 2027.
The First Minister also announced that, in addition, funding for the replacement for the Less Favoured Areas Support Scheme, currently worth £65 million, will be made available through Tier 2 once the replacement scheme has been decided.
First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “I can confirm the 2024 payment strategy will match the timings that you saw in 2023.
“That means, of course, that the first payments for EPS will be hitting your bank accounts in September. That full £61 million will absolutely be returned to the portfolio, will be used to support you and your members, and will be committed in full as part of future budgets.”
He said: “Of course, we don’t have certainty from the UK Government in terms of funding commitments from 2025. We need clarity from the UK Government about the future of rural funding after 2025.
“As it stands, we don’t have any idea what the Conservatives, or more likely the incoming Labour Government, are going to do in that regard, so we’ll continue to press Westminster for that.”
NFU Scotland President responds
NFU Scotland president Martin Kennedy responded at the event, saying: “We welcome the First Minister delivering clarity on future levels of support to be delivered under Scotland’s future agricultural policy.
“Equally important was the First Minister’s recognition of the economic importance of our sector and his stated ambition that he wants to see our production of high quality food and drink grow. That needs farming and crofting to be at the heart of the new agricultural policy and this Tier 1 and Tier 2 funding announcement is a lobbying success for NFU Scotland.
“For our highly productive, unsupported sectors such as pigs, poultry, horticulture and potatoes, funding in Tiers 3 and 4 will be vital in providing support for business development, investment and growth.
“However, current experience of some schemes is that the regulatory, planning and administrative hoops that applicants are having to jump through to access funds are acting as a disincentive and, in some cases, leading to an underspend in some schemes.
“We want to work with Scottish Government to ensure, in the future, Tier 3 and Tier 4 funding can be easily drawn down so that it acts as the economic driver that it was intended to be.”
Kennedy continued: “The huge unknown of all of this is what agricultural funding will be made available to Scotland by Westminster and that we have no certainties beyond the end of the current parliament. We are in an election year, and we have made our case clear that we need at least another £1 billion to be added to the UK budget for agriculture.
“Under the current financial agreement, that would see at least another £170 million to go into the Scottish agricultural budget. We already have the backing of the Lib Dems on this extra £1 billion and they have agreed to this in their manifesto. We want that same commitment from all other parties when manifestos start to emerge.
“We can have the best agricultural policy in the world, but if there’s no meaningful funding to deliver it, that would be a cliff edge for our members.”
Welsh farmers protest policy changes
This comes as farmers across Wales have expressed dissatisfaction regarding the publication of the latest consultation on the Sustainable Farming Scheme (SFS).
Now, Welsh farmers will need to ensure they are planting 10% of their land with trees and designating another 10% as wildlife habitat in order to be a part of the scheme.
Farmers have protested that the additional changes will burden them with further paperwork on top of their regular duties, with some ‘X’ (formerly Twitter) users calling the scheme “detrimental” to farmers. Additionally, the National Sheep Association has said it is “deeply alarmed” about the findings of a Welsh Government impact assessment into the SFS proposals.