Farmers payment appeals process allowed after six-year wait

Farmers who have had their support payments subjected to deductions or exclusions dating back to 2015 will, from next week, finally receive notification of why these had been made.

Friday, 8th October 2021, 7:00 am
Stewart Johnston of Galbraith
Stewart Johnston of Galbraith

With an estimated 4,000 producers falling into this bracket, a leading land agency has advised farmers to look at the details carefully – and to consider making an appeal against them where they disagree with the findings or the reasons given.

Speaking yesterday, Stewart Johnston of Galbraith’s Aberdeen offices said that, following a six-year delay, the Scottish government was to allow farmers to appeal for 2015, if they thought their payments were incorrect.

“It’s very good news for farmers and landowners. We have raised the issue in the past and we are aware of many cases where the exclusion seems arbitrary.

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"For some farmers the amount deducted runs into five figures,” said Johnston.

He stressed that the levels set in 2015 effectively tied in the number and value of entitlements which businesses received.

And he added that any errors or unjustified deductions could well have been carried forward since that time.

And this affected not only the Basic Payment Scheme but also Greening, Young Farmer and Less Favoured Area Support payments.

Johnston said that reasons for areas of land being excluded from SAF included ineligible land covers, crops or invalid seasonal let agreements.

However, he added that this was the first time the Scottish government’s Rural Payments and Inspectorate Directorate had actually notified producers of their reasoning.

“And that means that it is the first opportunity farmers have had to challenge the findings.”

He said that farmers had 60 days from receipt of the letter to submit an appeal to the rural payments department, with the department then having 60 days to either accept or reject the appeal and specifying the grounds for so doing.

“Some farmers are well aware that deductions have been applied incorrectly, while others may not be.

"We advise everyone to look out for the letter from RPID and consider whether they should make an appeal.”

While most farmers were clued up enough to know what their payments should be, he said that the fact that they had generally been made in several instalments – varying from 80 per cent to 95 per cent, with other small parcels making up the rest.

This, together with fluctuations in exchange rates, often made it difficult to know exactly what level of payment to expect.

Admitting that some discrepancies might be small, he said those factored in from the start of the system could be significant.

“While the letter to producers encourages anyone who disagrees to have a cosy chat with their local department office, where there is a significant discrepancy, farmers should make sure they lodge an appeal via the rural funding review form within 60 days of notification.”

The EU would have been liable for making up any significant shortfalls found in successful appeal cases, but following Brexit it is likely to fall on the domestic government to make this up.