Suspended Funds should be Allocated to New Entrants and Young Farmers
NFU Scotland has called for a suspended pot of Rural Development funding to be directed towards Scotland’s new generation of farmers and crofters.
The Environmental Co-operation Action Fund (ECAF), which forms part of Scotland’s Rural Development Programme (SRDP), has been suspended to allow for redesign to meet EU audit requirements with a view to relaunching in the future.
Ministers are currently considering reallocation the funds to initiatives and the Union has used a letter to the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity Fergus Ewing urging him to direct the funds towards the new entrants’ components of the SRDP 2014-2020 – namely, the Young Farmers and New Entrants Start Up Grants Schemes and the New Entrants Capital Grant Scheme.
Around £7 million of the £10 million allocated to Young Farmers and New Entrants schemes has already be taken up, with 140 successful applicants. However, NFU Scotland is concerned that the budget allocation is being quickly used up and the number of unsuccessful applications is already high. Topping up funding levels from ECAF would increase the effectiveness of popular schemes that are already stretched.
This request from NFUS follows supportive comments made by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at NFU Scotland’s AGM in Glasgow, where she recognised the importance of attracting new entrants into farming to the long-term health of the sector. In her address to AGM delegates, the First Minister indicated that the Scottish Government was looking at other ways to create further opportunities for new farmers and encouraging young people to take up farming.
In his letter to the Cabinet Secretary, newly-elected President
Andrew McCornick said:
“With some £10 million originally allocated to ECAF, we now have an opportunity for this funding to drive our shared objective of supporting new and young farmers.
“We are in complete agreement with Scottish Government on this issue. Encouraging a new generation to the industry is vital if Scotland is to maintain vibrant farming and crofting sectors. Overcoming barriers to entry and attracting talented people to agriculture is a key priority for both the Scottish Government and NFU Scotland.”
Mark Donald, Chairman of NFU Scotland’s New Generation Group welcomed the strong focus put on new entrants and young farmers by the First Minister in her address at the Union’s AGM, and the commitment to look into other ways in which government can help.
Mr Donald, aged 37, a tenant farmer at Rhynaclach, near Port of Menteith said: “The Young Farmers and New Entrants Start Up Grant Schemes are particularly vital in supporting the next generation of farmers with start-up aid linked to the delivery of a business plan with agriculture as its core activity.
“To date, the total support from the EU and the Scottish Government to the development of around 140 new farms all over Scotland is in the order of £7 million. However, there is a justifiable concern that the total budget allocation of £10 million will soon be exhausted, and we have already seen a very high proportion of unsuccessful applications – not as a result of poorer business plans but driven by a need to manage limited budgets.
“To build on its commitment to the new generation, reallocating the funding ear-marked for the ECAF to these much-valued, but under-funded schemes, would go some considerable way to delivering on our shared goal of attracting and nurturing talented young folk, helping them embrace the challenges and opportunities offered by our agricultural industry.”