2013-04-15 xml
Cabinet Secretary in Dumfries and Galloway to see Storm-Hit Farms

Scottish farmers met with Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead in Dumfries and Galloway on Friday 12th April to outline the severe challenges being faced by Scottish agriculture following some of the poorest weather in recent times.

Mr Lochhead was visiting John Kerr’s farm at High Barlay, near Newton Stewart. Mr Kerr, a new entrant to the sector, saw the loss of several hundred lambs under the snow when the storms struck parts of Scotland in late March. Since the storms, the stress placed on the farm’s ewes because of the weather has resulted in further abortions and Mr Kerr estimates that he will have lost 30 percent of his normal lamb crop by the time lambing is completed.

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The snow has acutely affected many businesses across Scotland this spring, hitting both livestock farmers and arable growers. The ongoing cold spell has compounded the impact that weather had on Scottish farming in 2012 – one of the coldest and wettest years on record.

NFU Scotland members, including President Nigel Miller and regional Board Chairman Andrew McCornick had the opportunity to thank the Cabinet Secretary and his staff for their recent support and assistance. Scottish Government has already made £500,000 available to soften the blow of paying to have fallen animals collected from farms.

They also outlined NFU Scotland’s thoughts on an aid package for the industry and pushed the Cabinet Secretary for a prompt decision on the matter.

Speaking after the meeting, NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller said:
“As soon as the storms hit in late March, it was clear the impact in areas like Dumfries and Galloway, Arran and Kintyre would be severe. At the earliest opportunity, there was an open line between farmers and the Cabinet Secretary and this visit is part of the dialogue that started three weeks ago.

“This visit to John Kerr’s farm brought the Cabinet Secretary face-to-face with the acute impact of the storms. John is a young farmer, clawing his way into the industry. Like a significant number of others, the storm has seen him lose many of his sheep and he faces a daily battle keeping those that remain alive until warmer weather can bring sufficient grass to sustain them.

“That effort of keeping stock going is replicated on many farms across Scotland. It take enormous levels of energy and resilience on the part of farmers and shepherds but it also comes at a substantial financial toll to the business by way of additional costs on bedding and feeding.

“That is a level of cost that businesses will not have budgeted for and its impact on the financial health of the farm business will only truly be felt come the autumn when these farms have significantly less lambs to sell and finance is needed to replace any lost breeding stock.

“As an industry, these are exceptional times and we believe that merits consideration being given to a one-off aid package. A decision from the Cabinet Secretary and his colleagues in the cabinet on the shape of such a package is needed soon to allow businesses to plan ahead.

“A clear signal that support will be forthcoming could help pull businesses back from the financial problems they may face and give some certainty to those who may face discussions on cash flows and overdraft facilities with their bank.

“A package would also help relieve the pressure that is building up on many families within Scottish farming and help them see more clearly where their future lies.

“Today we issued a joint statement with farming charity RSABI and are looking to work with all those with links into Scottish farming to ensure that any vulnerable farming families are aware of the help available. By working with those who come into regular contact with farmers – banks, auctioneers, abattoirs, doctors, churches, the supply trade – we hope that any struggling family knows they are not alone.”

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