Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS)
Crofting exists in areas where agricultural production and investment costs are traditionally high. The Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) provides grants to tenant and owner-occupier crofters, including sub-tenants, towards the costs of a range of agricultural operations, in order to encourage and develop production. Funding supports crofters in carrying out individual or collective investments that reduce productions costs, improve quality, preserve and improve the natural environment, and hygiene conditions and animal welfare standards. The Scottish Government insists that all agricultural businesses must meet strict hygiene and animal welfare standards.
The CAGS is a very popular scheme that attracts, on average, over 760 applications each year, with approximately 85% of applications being approved. From 2017 to the end of 2020, the CAGS £2 million annual budget has been fully utilised, and has received additional funding each year to meet demand. In financial year 2021/22, the Scottish Government announced over a 75% increase in the CAGS budget to £3.6 million, to accommodate the current annual spend and to fund the future planned improvements to the scheme.
From 2015 to 2020, over £15 million in CAGS funding has been invested, helping more than 3,000 crofters and their families with their croft businesses. Common grazing committees and Sheep Stock Clubs also benefit from the scheme, having received over £1.5 million in funding.
The maximum grant available to an individual applicant is limited to £25,000 in a rolling two-year period. For group applicants, the limit is £125,000.
For those individuals who meet the young crofter eligibility criteria, the grant rate is 80% of the approved costs in less favoured areas. The grant rate is set at 60% for all other crofters in the same areas.
For groups of crofters, the grant rate is set at 90% of the approved costs for young crofters in less favoured areas, and 80% for all other crofters.
The Scottish Government will continue to support and invest in crofting businesses and young crofters.
There is an extensive list of items eligible for grant aid under the CAGS, including:
- The erection or improvement of agricultural buildings and shelters for the temporary housing and sheltering of out-wintered livestock, including polytunnels and polycarbonate tunnels.
- Works associated with agricultural buildings, such as yards, hard-standings, dungsteads and silos.
- Investment in land management, including the initial grassland improvement works for the restoration of degraded land and the control of bracken.
- Slurry stores.
- Arterial and field drainage, including hill drainage and ditching.
- The provision or improvement of facilities for the organised feeding of out-wintered livestock, including permanently fixed troughs and feed barriers, and associated hardstanding.
- The provision or improvement of equipment for the handling and treatment of livestock.
- The planting of shelter belts and the provision of fences, hedges, walls, gates or stock grids.
- Provision or improvement of amenities, including water supplies, mains electricity connections, electricity generators or gas supplies.
- Provision of electrical equipment.
- Provision or improvement of access tracks to land improvement areas, roads, bridges, culverts or boat slips.
In October 2018, Donald MacSween (Sweeny) became the first 'Young Crofter of the Year', winning the accolade at the Scottish Crofting Federation event in Morayshire. Sweeny's family has been crofting in Ness, Isle of Lewis, for over 100 years, and you can catch Sweeny on his croft in BBC ALBA's "An Lot/The Croft".
"All my earliest memories are on the croft, whether that be cutting hay with my grandfather or helping my mother to feed the sheep. For my 21st birthday my parents gave me the 7 acre croft adjacent to the family croft, and from there I took over the running of the business.
For the next 5-6 years, during which I worked at the BBC and the local Council, I kept around 20 sheep on the croft and sold store lambs. As part of a European funded project with the Council, where I helped provide opportunities for young people to stay in the Western Isles, I realised that, whilst encouraging others to follow a career path that they may enjoy, I was not following my own advice. Realising this, I subsequently went part-time at the Council and ordered 300 hens!
In 2017, I finally took the plunge and went full-time with my croft business. I now have around 15 hectares on which I have about 500 hens, 170 sheep, 3 Highland cattle and followers, and 4 breeding sows. In the last 2-3 years I have used the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS) for a cattle crush and Combi clamp, two items that would not have been financially viable to my business without the support. Anyone who has tried to apply eye ointment to a Highland cow, as I have, will appreciate the benefit of a cattle crush.
I have also used the CAGS for fencing, which currently stretches to approximately 800m with a further 500m to go. In March 2020, as the country was going into lockdown, I finished erecting my livestock Polycrub, the first of its kind, for which I received funding through the CAGS. This has been a huge help to my business especially during lambing where I would have normally commandeered my parents barn. The polycarbonate tunnel has also allowed me to shear sheep in all weathers, even on those wet days, making my business more productive.
I have a further polycarbonate tunnel where I store my tractor, quad and hen feed, amongst other things. This tunnel allows me to bulk buy feed, saving me both time and money, and protects my heavier machinery from the elements.
I would encourage all crofters, especially those just setting-up, to speak with their local RPID office, or visit the RPID website, to find out the wide range of projects eligible under the CAGS.
Tha mise air a bhith na mo chroitear làn-ùine tharais air na trì bliadhna mu dheireadh agus tha mi air feum a dhèanamh à sgeama CAGS tharais air an ùine sin. Tha CAGS air leigeil dhomh adhartas mhòr a dhèanamh air a' chroit, rud nach biodh comasach as aonais an taic-airgid, le uidheamachd agus toglaichean dhan ceannach a tha nan cuideachadh mòr dhan ghnìomhachas agam".
Garrabost and New Garrabost Common Grazings, Stornoway
Since 2013 the Garrabost and New Garrabost Common Grazings has benefited from vital support from the Scottish Government through the Crofting Agricultural Grant Scheme (CAGS). Support has been received for a number of projects such as fencing, ditching and drainage, the creation of a hardstanding, an access road, and most recently in 2019, a fank.
The existing fank facility was labour intensive, which had a negative impact upon participation in group activity, and resulted in excessive handling of sheep, which had a negative impact upon animal welfare, consequently replacing the existing facility was raised by the grazings committee.
For a variety of reasons, including other priority projects, such as fencing (to control wandering livestock) and ditching, it was a further 3-4 years before the committee took the decision to proceed, and following consultation and agreement by shareholders, progressed the project.
Although the CAGS application process was straightforward, some minor difficulty was experienced in gaining the necessary three quotes and getting the equipment for the project. However, with these issues overcome, the committee received 80% of the project costs through CAGS funding, and the fank was built in 2019.
The Garrabost crofting township is a very active crofting area, with a mix of crofting activity. Although there are some 83 shareholders in the common grazing, the crofts in the township are actively used by a smaller number of crofters. There are 13 livestock crofters in the township, each benefiting directly from the construction of the fank.
Although not quite finished, the fank is already in use by the shareholders. It is expected that it will be used regularly throughout the year, up to six times per year by the group, with additional use by individual shareholders, as and when required.
Whilst the township has welcomed a number of young new entrants into crofting, there remains a number of older crofters. The fank makes the handling of heavy livestock safer and easier for all, including when administering medicines, and requires a smaller number of crofter participation. Handling the animals is now also a quicker process, which is always welcome, given that crofters can be out in all weathers!
The investment in the common grazing through CAGS has arguably resulted in Garrabost having one of the most utilised commons in Lewis and Harris.
The committee is already giving thought and consideration to potential future projects that could be undertaken on the common grazing.
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