Government pledges cash aid for victims of snow and severe rain

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Scottish livestock farmers hit by the extreme weather in March and by last year’s downpours heard yesterday that the Scottish Government is making £6 million available as an aid package – but the details as to who would be eligible for this financial assistance have yet to be worked out.

An industry group, chaired by the government’s chief agricultural officer Drew Sloan, will meet next week to develop the details of the recovery package.

Rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead said it had been difficult to quantify the amount of money needed as many farmers were still counting the cost.

His instruction to the industry group was to ensure the aid was targeted at those who needed it most, providing a badly needed lifeline to help them get back on their feet.

Welcoming the aid package, NFUS president Nigel Miller said the worst storms of recent times might have passed, but they had left in their wake losses for every farming sector, “a legacy which will have its full impact this autumn when lambs are sold and crops are harvested”.

While recognising the losses because of the March “big freeze”, Miller said the 2012 weather had had an impact right across the whole of Scotland, resulting in livestock and crop losses.

“This variability has been recognised in the package of government support and will mean that aid can be targeted at those in need wherever they are located,” he said.

The Scottish Government said the aid package would be notified to the European Union as a state aid, and it would comply with state aid rules. This gives two funding options. The first is limited to €7,500 (£6,350) per farm for three years, while the “block exemption” category allows for compensation where there has been a loss of income of over 30 per cent.

“As the impact of the severe weather is still being evaluated, it is not possible to know how many eligible cases there might be,” said a government spokesman.