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Farmers and crofters to receive support payments


The path has today been cleared for farmers and crofters to receive 61 million in crucial agricultural payments.

Following this morning's successful vote in Europe, Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) funds could be paid out to farmers and crofters within two weeks, easing the financial burden many have suffered in the wake of the summer's foot and mouth outbreak in England.

Payments will be made 'at risk' following today's recommendation in Brussels that the Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) should receive formal approval from the European Commission in the next three weeks. This news allows Scottish Ministers to honour their commitment to make LFASS payments ahead of full agreement of the rural development programme.

Speaking during his appearance at the Rural Affairs and Environment Committee Richard Lochhead, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, said:

"In coming weeks I will be able to announce formally the 1.6 billion SRDP. This will deliver wide ranging economic, environmental and social outcomes across the length and breadth of Scotland

Approval of the SRDP has been a long, often arduous, process and one for which we still need the formality of a final written decision by the Commission to allow us to proceed.

"In December I met with Commissioner Fischer Boel who confirmed that the Scottish Government could proceed 'at risk' with payments under the LFASS scheme ahead of formal approval of the SRDP. Today, I am honouring that commitment.

"That LFASS payments are proceeding is excellent news for Scotland's 13,000 hill farmers and crofters who rely heavily on these payments under normal circumstances and who have struggled in recent months following the impact of restrictions imposed during the foot and mouth outbreak."

The Less Favoured Area Support Scheme (LFASS) supports farming and crofting businesses in upland and remote areas in order to compensate for difficulties they face due to physical conditions and distances to suppliers and markets. It is a major contribution to business viability in these areas, amounting to 61m per year.

The 2007-13 Scotland Rural Development Programme (SRDP) is a major programme of support for rural Scotland worth about 1.6 billion over the programme period. The objectives are set out in three themes; these are to increase competitiveness in agriculture and forestry, improve the environment and the countryside and enhance the quality of life in rural areas.

The SRDP is based on delivering outcomes for rural Scotland. Five key outcomes have been identified. These are to improve business viability, enhance biodiversity and landscape, improve water quality, tackle climate


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