SCOTLAND‘S FARMING union believes a new entrants‘ scheme, which could be introduced alongside the single farm payment, might be important in helping young people farm.

In its consultation on how the national reserve might operate from Jan 1, 2005, the Scottish Executive points out that a scheme to help new entrants is an option.

“Consideration needs to be given as to whether new entrants to farming should, or need to, be supported under a decoupled system, and whether allocating entitlements is the best way to encourage young people into farming,” the consultation document says.

A spokesman for NFU Scotland said the potential for a new entrant scheme was interesting.

“Ultimately, a viable industry is the best way to encourage the younger generation into farming,” he said.

“However, a new entrant scheme could play an important role in giving young potential farmers a leg-up into the industry,” the spokesman said.

Any allocation of entitlement to the new SFP for new entrants would have to come from the national reserve, funded by retaining up to 3% of all farmers‘  SFPs.

With six categories automatically entitled to payments from the national reserve, demand is likely to be high.

And the union warns that, while a 3% cut in payments is likely to provide the initial funding, there is no limit on reductions.

The consultation document confirms this saying if there are insufficient reserves to deal with future demand, there may need to be a pro-rata reduction in all entitlements.

The scheme must ensure that legitimate applicants are covered. But farmers must also be realistic in their demands, the union spokesman said.

Responses to the consultation are required by June 21.