Tuesday, 27 November 2012
WET WEATHER SURVEY SEEKS SHORT TERM HELP FOR FARMERS
Long term resilience also needed for changing climate Scottish farmers are seeking short-term assistance from Scottish Government and the banking sector to cope with this year’s record rainfall and disastrous harvest according to responses to NFU Scotland’s wet weather survey. However, longer-term measures that would leave Scottish farmers more resilient to the changing climate in the years ahead are also required. In an unprecedented level of response, more than 450 Scottish farmers have completed the Union’s survey in less than 10 days. The results were revealed by NFU Scotland President Nigel Miller at AgriScot, a major farming event taking place at Ingliston near Edinburgh today (21 November) where Mr Miller shared a platform with Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Richard Lochhead. Speaking at AgriScot, Mr Miller said: “The unprecedented response to the survey simply highlights how awful a year 2012 has been for many Scottish farmers. It has also teased out the sort of assistance that would make a difference to those Scottish farming businesses struggling through the current winter and facing an uncertain spring. “Half of those who responded have already needed extra cash for their businesses and expect to have to take extra steps to improve their cash flow by the spring. For them, affordable access to credit and the waiving of arrangement fees were deemed to be useful or very useful to their businesses. We will pick that up with the Scottish clearing banks when we meet in private this afternoon. “With cashflow being such a concern for so many businesses, guarantees from the Scottish Government around the prompt payment of key support schemes – the Single Farm Payment in December and Less Favoured Areas support in March – would give important reassurances. Scotland has a good track record in achieving this. “However, we would like the Scottish Government to go further and specifically help those businesses who unfortunately may see their payments delayed into the New Year because they have been subject to inspection or query on their claim. Given the exceptional circumstances, we believe there is merit in Scottish Government directing additional resources to help settle the claims of those businesses facing delays as soon as possible. “Given the importance of support, virtually all farmers remain fearful of inspections and the impact that failure could have on their support payments. However, the toll that the rain has left on ground conditions means that it would be appropriate to grant an amnesty from weather-related cross compliance issues. This is something that nine out of ten respondents would appreciate. “To assist recovery in the short term, there was almost unanimous backing for any available Scottish Government assistance to be targeted at making drainage repairs and improvements and for reseeding, so that badly damaged pastures can be reinstated. “In the future, farmers believe long term resilience to volatile weather can be built into our farming systems by ensuring that rural development funding supports items such as land reinstatement, drainage, reseeding, upgrading gateways, crop storage and slurry storage. We hope to pick up with Scottish Government how such items can be incorporated into the next rural development plan. “What the survey has also done is clarify just how difficult 2012 has been. For those with crops, the relentless rain endured over many months have hammered crop yields and quality, driven significant costs into harvesting, left many crops still standing in the fields and winter seed in the shed unsown. “Using our survey results as a snapshot across the whole Scottish arable sector, one in five growers still have more than 10 percent of their cereals, maize or potatoes to harvest and a staggering one in ten arable respondents still had 50 percent or more of their cereals and maize in the field. “Half the growers who responded to the survey have failed to get all their winter crops planted and will have to carry that seed through to next autumn. “On livestock units, the issues have been early housing of stock, variable forage quality, higher feed costs and being forced to sell animals earlier than intended due to lack of feed. Two-thirds of respondents have had to buy more bedding and fodder than they had budgeted for and three-quarters of livestock keepers housed their stock earlier than normal. “All-in-all 2012 has been a desperately difficult and trying year for Scottish farmers. This survey shows that their is scope to provide short term assistance to get over this difficult period but also the opportunity longer-term to leave Scottish food and farming better placed to cope with such variable weather patterns."