Capital project fears

NFU Scotland fears farmers hoping to invest in capital projects could lose out this year.

For the government has confirmed that assessment committees will look at applications for Rural Priorities money for environmental projects in September 2011 which the farmers’ union warns could mean no further assessments this year.

A spokesperson said: “That would be a huge disapointment to those considering capital investment projects (Axis 1) for 2011 and, if confirmed, that timetable will be also be a blow to any farmers within nitrate vulnerable zones (NVZs) who may still require support to meet rules on slurry storage by the end of the year.”

The union and farmers already knew the forthcoming Rural Priorities Regional Proposal Assessment Committees (RPACs) would be restricted to applications to the Rural Priorities scheme funding for Axis 2 (environmental) projects.

But the union’s head of rural policy, Jonnie Hall, said: “The announcement that these projects would not be considered until the end of September throws into doubt the timetable for further rounds.

“The Scottish Government has indicated that it will announce the timing of the next assessment committees for Axis 1 (business development) and Axis 3 (rural enterprise and rural communities) projects as soon as possible.

“However, we cannot assume that there will be further rounds this year, and so there may be no opportunity for those businesses looking to develop capital investments proposals. This would be of severe concern to NFUS and, after today’s elections, is an issue that will be taken up with the new Scottish government as a matter of urgency – not least on behalf of those in NVZs who are required to have sufficient slurry storage in place by the end of the year.

But he added: “There is good news within the Rural Priorities applications process though. From the start of this month, agri-environment projects up to £50,000 on sites of special scientific interest and Natura sites (those that come under EU environmental protection rules as being internationally important) will be considered under an ongoing approval process.

“Applicants for these projects do not need to wait for the September meetings.

“That is a welcome improvement in the process that NFUS would be keen to see rolled out across all Rural Priorities applications.”

Applications for money for environmental projects, which will be considered by RPACs between September 19 and 30, must be submitted by June 15.