As the two-day meeting kicked off in St Andrew’s today (February 11), it was still unclear as to when overdue support payments would land in farmers’ bank accounts.
NFUS president Allan Bowie said: “The farming community and the supply trade will be desperate to hear from Richard Lochhead and his plans to address the fact that two-thirds of Scottish farmers and crofters are yet to receive a single penny of their support payment.
“That ongoing delay has generated a cash flow crisis on Scottish farms that is building by the day and causing genuine hardship in some cases.”
Mr Bowie said he would also press the Scottish Government on what impact the current delays in delivering direct support will have on other support and grant schemes such as Less Favoured Areas payments, headage schemes and Young Farmer/New Entrant grants.
He added: “Applications to the 2016 scheme year should open shortly – what reassurances can Mr Lochhead give that this year’s debacle will not be repeated?”
Members are also due to hear from Defra Minister George Eustice, who has been asked to state when the promised Westminster review of the convergence dividend from Europe will take place.
“Whilst it is unlikely that a fully converged UK area-based payment would have meant all the UK dividend would have been allocated to Scotland, it is certain that Scotland should have received considerably more than its historic allocation,” added Mr Bowie.
Key policy debates will look at the impact of the proposed Land Reform Bill, currently passing through the Scottish Parliament, and whether the recommendations of the Scottish Government’s own Agricultural Holdings Review Group are being properly recognised.
Addressing poor commodity prices, debates around the marketplace will assess the potential offered by home and export markets and what can be done to ensure farmers receive a fairer margin.
The AGM will also examin whether direct contracts with supermarkets are good or bad for the industry.
NFU Scotland’s AGM is taking place at the Fairmont Hotel, St Andrews.