NFU Scotland yesterday launched an audacious bid which, if successful, would have seen Scottish farmers get around £40 million to help counteract the costs of the extreme winter weather.
The union call targeted the “voluntary modulation” cash removed from the single farm payment (SFP), with president, Nigel Miller saying he was pressing the Scottish Government to utilise its discretion on the issue.
With £600m or so being paid in SFP, the discretionary percentage would come to around £40m, with every farmer in the country receiving a share of the cash – including, possibly controversially, those who no longer farmed, the so-called “slipper farmers”.
In addition to the extreme problems brought about by the late March snow storms, Miller pointed out the chronic and cumulative impacts of the weather on all sectors of the farming industry; both arable and livestock.
“These must not be ignored or forgotten,” he said. “The true cost of the past 12 months for Scottish farming might not be known for another 12 months and more,” he warned.
However, the Scottish Government last night said it could not countenance the bid as it had had to notify the European Commission on the modulation rate back last October and that the voluntary modulation cash had already been committed.
If any money had to be withdrawn from the budgets now, it would require to come from the Scottish Rural Development Programme.
However, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead accepted the weather had had a devastating on farming particularly as it had come at lambing time leaving farmers facing rising feed costs and demand for more feed.
He added that in addition to the half am pounds of government money already handed over to defray the costs of fallen stock, discussions would continue with the industry to identify the most appropriate and practical method of delivering further aid.
In order to provide more information on the overall state of farming, the union also yesterday appealed to its 9,000 members to go online and fill in a survey on how the weather had affected their businesses.