‘Weather aid’ payments near £3.5m

Environment Secretary Richard Lockhead. Picture: SNS
Environment Secretary Richard Lockhead. Picture: SNS
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The Scottish Government has paid out almost £3.5 million of weather aid to farmers hit by the severe winter it was reported yesterday, as the June census statistics revealed the weather-related knock-on effects suffered across the industry.

Rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead confirmed yesterday that a total of 540 weather aid payments, worth more than £2.7m, had now been processed and a further 4,000 farmers had received help from the Scottish Government’s £750,000 fallen stock fund.

“About 300 weather aid claims are still outstanding and my officials are actively working with these farmers to verify their applications so that payments comply with EU state aid rules. This is very complex, which is why some claims are taking longer to process, but all payments will be completed as soon as possible,” said Lochhead.

The announcement came as official figures showed this year’s wintry conditions led to a fall in livestock numbers across Scotland, with the number of calves and lambs particularly badly affected.

Commenting on the release of the June 2013 Agricultural Census, Lochhead said: “These latest statistics confirm what we already know – that this year’s extreme weather has taken its toll on Scottish farmers.”

The official figures showed that there was a noticeable move from winter-planted to spring-planted crops, with wheat down 14,000 hectares, offset by an increase of 7,000 hectares in spring barley and 8,000 hectares in spring oats. The areas planted with potatoes, oilseed rape, and crops for feeding to livestock also decreased

Livestock numbers continued to decline, with cattle numbers down by 2 per cent to 1.80 million. Beef cattle also fell 2 per cent, to 725,950, while dairy cattle numbers remained virtually unchanged on 2012. The number of calves fell by 4 per cent to 531,132.

Sheep numbers dropped again, down 2 per cent to 6.57 million, chiefly due to a 167,000, or 5 per cent, decrease in lambs.

Pigs numbers saw a large fall, down 12 per cent to 319,000, part of a long-running trend. Poultry saw a 4 per cent decline to 14.2 million.

The amount of agricultural land that was rented again fell, by 21,000 hectares or 2 per cent, to 1.37 million hectares. This means that 24 per cent of agricultural land is rented compared to 30 per cent in 2003. There were an estimated 7,100 holdings with tenancy arrangements, down 370 or 5 per cent since 2012.