Scottish hill-sheep scheme launches with lower payments

The new Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme (SUSS) has launched, with payments being made at €78 per hogg head, according the Scottish branch of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU). 

The €78-per-head payment is substantially lower than the expected sum of €100.

The NFU believes the shortfall reflects the fact that more ewe hoggs were claimed for than was predicted. The scheme has a fixed budget of €8m pa and the amount farmers receive varies depending on the number of eligible animals claimed in the scheme year.

SUSS has been created to support active hill farmers and crofters with a payment scheme linked to the number of ewe hoggs kept as breeding replacements among their flocks.

NFU Scotland expects that successful claimants should be receiving payments within the next few days.

NFU Scotland said it believes improvement can be made to the scheme, and there is an opportunity for the Scottish government to have changes approved by the EU to fine-tune SUSS in time for next year.

The union has already written to the Scottish government outlining a range of possible improvements, including: a wider application period; a new retention period; and linking the total number of ewe hoggs a producer can claim to a percentage of the breeding flock.

“We fought hard for a coupled sheep payment to be part of the new CAP [Common Agricultural Policy] schemes to ensure that Scotland’s limited budget could be targeted in the best way possible at active farmers,” said Martin Kennedy, the NFU’s less-favoured areas committee chairman.

“While the rate of payment is disappointing compared to what farmers and crofters were expecting, it is much better that these precious funds are delivered as a coupled payment to those actively keeping sheep than the money being simply spread across all region-3 land.”

Kennedy urged crofters and farmers who are receiving SUSS funding to keep in mind the total amount of money they are receiving under the CAP schemes for all of their land, sheep and cattle, and to balance that against where the whole agricultural budget that has been cut.

“For sheep producers who receive the new SUSS payment, we believe this scheme is a vital element of the support that they need to viably run their farm or croft.

“We have proposed a number of changes to the scheme in order to make it more applicant friendly and will continue to press the Scottish government to deliver these changes.”

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