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NFU Scotland has written to the Scottish Government asking that it looks at the rules surrounding the definition of new entrants, following announcement that Young Farmers’ Start-Up and New Entrants’ Start-Up grants will not be re-opened to future applications.
Both the NFUS Next Generation working group and SAYFC’s Agri-Affairs Committee have expressed deep concerns as, under the existing interpretation and implementation of the rules surrounding the definition of new entrants, a significant number of genuine new farm businesses are being shut out of the National Reserve as well as the New Entrants’ Start-up grant and other capital schemes.
The interpretation of ‘new entrant’ eligibility criteria currently deems individuals as being ‘active’ for more than five years because of the previous years before they were properly established as businesses in their own right being counted.
It is NFU Scotland’s concern that many future farmers who already have valuable experience are being sidelined, while others of less experience who are eligible can more readily access support.
In the letter to rural affairs secretary Fergus Ewing, NFUS Next Generation chairman Mark Donald said: ‘The Scottish Government has often talked of the great importance of new entrants to agriculture in the past.
‘However, the recent news that due to budgetary constraints the Scottish Government would not re-open the Young Farmers’ Start-Up and New Entrants’ Start-Up grants for future applications is hugely disappointing.
‘Surely the levels of demand are indicative of a real enthusiasm from the next generation of Scotland’s farmers and crofters to get a foothold in the industry.
‘The demand for this funding was not unanticipated and in our letter to Mr Ewing we have asked for further discussion on the allocation of funds to these grant programmes as being undeniably necessary and have encouraged budget allocation within the Scottish Rural Development Programme to be reconsidered to ensure the continuity of these schemes.’