SAP payment available now
THE first advance of sheep annual premium (SAP) is available from Brussels and should be paid immediately, according to Dumfriesshire farmer Andrew Wood.
Mr Wood, representing for four farming pressure groups, was speaking on his return from a meeting in Brussels with EU commission officials.
“We learned that the advance payment can be released and we would urge Government to make the payment now rather than wait for the usual August timing. It would do a lot for hill farmers who have no positive cash flow until the autumn,” Mr Wood said.
His organisation, the Independent Farming Group, was joined by Welsh Highland Shepherds, the English Hill Farming Initiative, and Scottish Hill Enterprise and Farming for the visit to Brussels.
Scottish NFU livestock director Richard Henton confirmed that once the EU sheep management committee had fixed a provisional rate of SAP, the first payment could be made in a member state once its retention period ended.
In the UK that happened on May 15, the same day as the sheep management committee announced a 1998 SAP rate of £18.16, or £23.31 including less favoured area (LFA) supplement. The expected first SAP advance is £5.45, boosted to £10.08 in LFAs.
NFU president Ben Gill said he hoped to meet MAFF in the coming days to discuss a range of issues, including the ministrys plans for paying the SAP advance. Early release of the money would certainly help cash-strapped producers, he added.
A MAFF official, however, told Farmers Weekly that there were no plans to release the advance payments before the end of July.