£100m arable aid in jeopardy
By Allan Wright
SCOTTISH farmers are in danger of being denied £100m of arable aid for 1998, in addition to £5m outstanding for 1997, because half of those who qualify remain unable to provide field maps in accordance with IACS demands.
The 1998 IACS explanatory booklet stated that farmers would not receive payment on fields with old identifiers until those fields had been allocated new identifiers and had been checked against the field register.
Farmers struggling to resolve the issue are now receiving letters from the Scottish Office stating that new identifiers must be in place before any outstanding 1997 payments or any 1998 payment can be made.
"It is a scandalous state of affairs. This problem has nothing to do with farmers, it is a case of bungling and delay by the Scottish Office and Ordnance Survey which was hired by government to do the digital mapping in Scotland," said Scottish NFU vice-president Peter Chapman, Aberdeenshire, who is one of those who has been affected.
"It is bad enough to have 5% of aid withheld through no fault of the farmer," he said, referring to the existing restrictions. "But to be denied the entire arable aid payment would be devastating at any time and even more so in this difficult harvest year and with prices at rock bottom."
The Scottish NFU is demanding interest on 1997 money withheld and Mr Chapman said they would fight any threat to 1998 arable aid.
A Scottish Office spokesman said it was a statutory requirement for fields to be identified properly. "If we were to pay before a new identity was given, Brussels would impose a penalty on us." *