Hill farmer herding sheep© JohnEveson/FLPA/Rex

Sheep producers working Scotland’s toughest land are being reminded to apply for their share of a £6.1m fund by 16 October.

The Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme will provide support to help maintain flocks in some of the most challenging agricultural land in Scotland.

This will be the first year of the scheme, which is part of the Scottish government’s package of measures under the new CAP arrangement and is designed to reward activity and eliminate “slipper farmers”.

See also: Farmers Weekly Awards 2015: Sheep Farmer of the Year finalists revealed

Payments under the scheme will be made in 2016, with the aim of being paid by 30 June.

The total figure available is €8m, but this will depend on the sterling-euro exchange rate at the time.

Eligibility

The scheme is targeted at sheep production on the poorest quality land. Other sheep producers are not eligible for this scheme, but will receive higher payments under the Basic and Greening Payments schemes.

To be eligible for the scheme, sheep producers must:

  • Have home-bred ewe hogs
  • No more than 200ha of payment region 1 land
  • 80% of holding must consist of land in payment region 3.
  • Payment will be restricted to one ewe hogg for every four hectares.

A ‘welcome support’

The Scottish government’s chief agricultural officer David Barnes said: “With less than two weeks until the final deadline on 16 October 2015 I would urge all farmers who think they might be entitled to a share of the fund apply to ensure they receive financial support.

“Following a challenging summer for farmers, the new scheme will provide a welcome support for a vital part of the farming industry.

“This is the first time we have offered a targeted support scheme to this part of the sheep sector and there are specific rules about who is eligible. I would urge sheep farmers to read the scheme guidance to see if they are eligible.

How to apply

All applications can be made through Rural Payments and Services. Applications can be made online. Paper applications can be downloaded from Rural Payments and Services or they can be requested from producers’ local area office.

Paper applications must be submitted through the Inverness area office only and sent to: RPID, Longman House, 28 Longman Road, Inverness IV1 1SF.

Farmers without internet access can use computers in their local RPID area office, which can be booked in advance.

To submit an application online, download a paper copy, or find out more about the scheme, visit https://www.ruralpayments.org/publicsite/futures/topics/all-schemes/scottish-upland-sheep-support-scheme/

Sheep farming is a key agricultural use of rough grazing in Scotland, with 8,800 people employed on specialist sheep holdings.

In 2011, specialist sheep businesses in LFA (Less Favoured Areas) accounted for 20% of Scotland’s single farm payment recipients and 6% of total direct payments.