Scottish Government offers bridging loans to farmers following extreme weather

Some farmers have faced financial difficulties after an unusually dry summer
Some farmers have faced financial difficulties after an unusually dry summer
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Loans to help farmers hit by months of adverse weather are being offered by the Scottish Government.

The National Basic Payment Support Scheme was launched yesterday by Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.

Under the scheme, loans will be made available to eligible farmers of up to 90% of the value of their annual payment from the European Union.

While that money would usually be handed over between December and June, the loan payments are expected to be made to eligible farmers from early October.

It follows a run of difficult weather for farmers in 2018, with “the Beast from the East” cold spell followed by a heatwave this summer.

Mr Ewing said: “Farmers are the backbone of Scotland’s rural economy and we understand that many of them have really suffered this year due to the unprecedented severe weather experienced in 2018.

“The Scottish Government is of course committed to supporting our farmers and have responded by taking decisive action to make this extra funding stream available.

“We will be issuing loan offers shortly, providing a much-needed cash injection for those feeling the effects of increased prices for feed and fodder, the impact of restraints on irrigating their land and in some cases resorting to selling livestock earlier than planned to preserve fodder for breeding stocks.”

Mr Ewing said he had also asked experts to consider what other actions may be helpful in response to the recent dry weather.

The funding will be available on an opt-in basis, with individual loan offers expected to be sent to farmers from early September.

A similar scheme created last year delivered payments of more than £317 million to around 13,500 farmers, the Government said.

Scottish Labour’s rural economy spokesman, Colin Smyth, said: “This long overdue announcement is welcome but doesn’t go far enough. Farmers have been warning of a crisis for months now, with grass growth at a standstill and hay and silage crops in some cases just half the normal level.

“The shortages and spiralling prices for feed is hitting all sectors and both the Scottish and UK governments have to step up and do more.”

There are also concerns that the cash announced yesterday does not cover crucial Pillar 2 payments and Labour is calling on ministers to bring forward the payment of these schemes as a “matter of urgency.”