Cash support for hard-hit agricultural sector

The NFU Scotland has thanked the Scottish government for the support shown to farmers hit hardest by last weekend’s snowstorms.

The union has asked the administration to consider a financial support package for the whole industry given the ongoing bad weather.

The Scottish government announced on Friday that £500,000 was being made available to help meet the exceptional costs that some farmers face in disposing of those sheep, lambs and calves that have died. Total losses in Dumfries and Galloway, South Ayrshire, Arran and Kintyre are unlikely to be finalised until a significant thaw takes place but the industry anticipates that for some businesses these will be considerable.

Support to have fallen stock collected is welcome and the union has asked the cabinet secretary to give consideration to other financial measures that would assist the farming community.

The poor weather of 2012 has been followed by a long, cold winter and the list of problems for farmers is growing – cash flow, additional feed and fuel bills, late drilling of spring cereals and so on.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller said: “The past few days have been catastrophic on some farms, but we are now entering a phase when income losses and increasing costs will combine to create a perfect storm that will threaten the very existence of many otherwise robust units.

“The financial pressures will build day by day across much of Scotland, but without grabbing the headlines. The legacy of 2012 and the prolonged winter of 2013 will affect all areas of Scotland. The longer the severe weather goes on, the more extreme and widespread the impacts are going to be.

“I have asked the cabinet secretary and his officials to look at what financial resources might be made available, and through what means such support might be best targeted to be most effective. I realise that in the present economic climate this will be difficult, but this looks like the worst period of spring weather in recent times. The cabinet secretary has shown genuine willingness to support the sector in this difficult period and that can extend to exploring what financial support options might be available.

“At the same time, we are maintaining a dialogue with those who can also deliver help and support to those most in need – such as the charity RSABI – and we are planning to sit down with the main clearing banks in Scotland next week to get a handle on how this crisis is impacting on farm cash flows.”