Direct Payments form an important part of the rural economy, providing income support to farmers, encouraging environmental benefits and bringing security and stability to Scotland's food production chain.
They are paid to everyone who qualifies and farmers, crofters and land owners do not compete for funding, as is the case with Scottish Rural Development Programme (SRDP) payments.
- provides steady income to farmers
- means farmers aren't solely dependent on food prices
- brings security and stability to the farming sector
Direct Payments 2014-2020
Direct Payments will run from 2015 to 2020 and will introduce new support measures to replace the Single Farm Payment Scheme.
Over this period, the new support measures will inject £3.3 billion into Scotland's agricultural sector.
Farming businesses will be allocated new payment entitlements in 2015, subject to certain conditions. The number of entitlements issued will equal the number of hectares declared in 2015 in each of the relevant payment regions.
Other farmers, such as new entrants, will, depending on circumstances, be allocated payment entitlements through the National Reserve.
Most of a farmer's or crofter's payments will be made up of their Basic Payment and an associated greening payment that will support environmental aspects of their business.
These are important changes.
Some of the changes are radical, for example the switch to an area-based payment from support based on historic activity.
And some of the changes will be familiar, such as the annual application process or requirements to comply with regulations on public health, animal and plant health, environmental protection and animal welfare.
The main elements of the reforms have been set out in European Commission regulations and are the same across all 28 member states.