Farmers meet banks after heavy March snowstorms

Farmers’ leaders have met representatives of Scotland’s banks to highlight the impact that the March snowstorms have had on affected businesses as well as discussing the long-term legacy that the ongoing cold weather is having across Scotland.

In parts of Dumfries and Galloway, South Ayrshire, Arran and Kintyre – where stock losses have been considerable – there is huge pressure on farms to keep remaining ewes and lambs alive. That may require help to source feed and dispose of fallen animals, while the budgetary implications of stock losses may not be felt on cash flows until the autumn and winter.

The National Farmers Union Scotland also explained to the bank representatives the full extent of the problems faced on all farm types hit by the second coldest March on record. A cold, late spring has compounded the difficult weather year endured across Scotland in 2012. NFU Scotland vice-president Allan Bowie, who represented the union at the talks, called on banks to take a flexible and sensitive approach in their dealings with farm businesses.

He said: “Thanks to information provided by members, we were able to begin to quantify weather impacts to the representatives of Bank of Scotland, Lloyds TSB Scotland, the Royal Bank of Scotland and the Committee of Scottish Bankers.

“All the banks present said they were committed to being sensitive to the circumstances and, where appropriate, would look at ways to assist viable farming customers – especially those in the hardest hit areas.

“While reaffirming their belief that in the medium to long-term Scottish agriculture was a good sector to invest in, the banks did stress that it was essential for farmers to be proactive in approaching their bank for discussions rather than letting any problems mount up.

“There are very few businesses which, despite best efforts, have been sheltered from the ongoing poor weather and the effects will continue to be felt for months to come. Many of our members saw 2012 having a significant financial impact on their business due to the weather, and spring 2013 will have only added to their woes. At the union, we shall continue to monitor the situation on members’ farms and whether farmers can gain access to lending when they need it most.

“We shall also continue to work closely with the Scottish government on identifying a support package for the sector. In the meantime, we would urge any farmer that is struggling not to suffer in silence. NFUS members can draw on a great deal of support and advice from their fellow farmers and union staff, and we would encourage them contact us directly if they need any help or assistance.”