THE damage caused by six months of dreadful weather is beginning to be quantified with a survey by NFU Scotland showing almost half respondents with livestock had sold cattle or sheep because of weather related feed shortages.
Aggravating the fodder position was the finding that a quarter of farmers had brought their stock inside more than a month earlier than usual.
The survey attracted 450 responses nationwide and also revealed that more than half of cereal growers will carry forward seed to next year, having been unable to get onto the land to sow their autumn crop.
Union president Nigel Miller, who was giving out the results at a seminar at AgriScot, admitted he was surprised by another figure showing that 40 per cent of those filling in the forms on the deadline date of 1 November still had 10 per cent or more of their grain to be harvested and some had more than half.
The way the weather had knocked cashflow plans into disarray was also highlighted with almost half the respondents stating they needed extra cash to cope with the consequences.On this last issue, Miller said the union would be meeting with the main clearing banks to see if they would waive arrangement fees for those needing to negotiate an extension to their borrowing requirements.
With Cabinet secretary Richard Lochhead in attendance, Miller made a plea that all farmers receive their Single Farm Payments as soon as possible and, where queries might delay the main payment, that a percentage be paid.
“With cashflow being such a concern for so many businesses, guarantees from the 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.”
In addition to this short-term measure to mitigate the effects of the weather, Miller said that more resilience needed to be built into the industry to cope with future climate extremes.
He called for future rural development funds to support items such as land reinstatement, drainage, reseeding, upgrading gateways and crop and slurry storage.
In response, Lochhead pointed to the past record of the Scottish Government in getting support payments out as soon after 1 December as possible.
Lochhead also announced the setting up of a Business Advisory Group under the chairmanship of James Withers, the chief executive of Scotland Food and Drink, to look at the Scottish dairy supply chain. The emphasis of the group is very much on improving market opportunities at home and abroad and that includes looking at primary production and processing capacity in the country.
Lochhead also talked up export prospects in the Far East with rapidly expanding opportunities for Scottish dairy produce in both China and Japan.