The Board of Smallholding Scotland yesterday wrote to Fergus Ewing, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy and Connectivity, to ask him to remove the income bar on the Small Farm Grant Scheme for the remaining life of the scheme to allow Scottish small-scale farmers and producers fairer access to support to invest in their holdings, no matter where in Scotland they farm.
The Chair of Smallholding Scotland, Rosemary Champion said, “The Small Farm Grant Scheme was a welcome addition to the current iteration of CAP, but the imposition of an income bar has prevented many smallholders from accessing the funding to improve their holdings. With only a limited time period remaining, we’re asking Mr. Ewing to remove it, making the resources more accessible and bringing the scheme into line with other CAP schemes”.
No other CAP scheme, including the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) on which the SFGS is based, has an income bar for applicants.
The SFGS was introduced in 2015 but uptake has been poor. In the 22 month of operation from 1st January 2015 to the end of October 2016, less than 2% of the available budget had been allocated, although uptake in the subsequent period is believed to have improved slightly.
Rosemary said, “Many smallholders are already excluded from agricultural support because of the 3ha minimum area; further exclusion on the grounds of income limits their capacity to invest in small farm businesses. Many smallholders must have off-farm employment to pay the bills – just like crofters – so the same rules should apply. The Scottish Government has said that it supports small scale farming – so we’re confident that it will step up to the mark and do the right thing.”
Smallholding Scotland is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation established in 2017 to support and represent Scottish smallholders. More information can be found on the organisation’s website smallholding.scot.