Helping farmers weather the storm
A range of measures are in place to help Scottish farmers who have been hit by 2012’s adverse weather, Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead said today.
Speaking as he visited an East Lothian arable farm with NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller, Mr Lochhead said the Scottish Government would do all it could to support those farmers who had been affected.
This will include writing to banks to update them on the timing of Single Farm Payments and asking them to provide maximum flexibility for those farmers whose payments are not made at the start of December.
Other measures in place include:
- Increasing resources to pay Single Farm Payments as quickly as possible – including staff working in the evenings and weekends - around 80 staff worked evenings and weekends over the past four weeks in 16 areas offices across Scotland
- Extending invoice dates for 2012 Rural Priorities capital works to February 28 – a two month extension
- Flexibility from SEPA on rules regarding manure and slurry spreading in non Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (NVZs)
- Working with farmers in NVZs to reduce any penalties for failing to comply with slurry spreading rules
Mr Lochhead said:
“Parts of Scotland have experienced extreme weather throughout 2012 and this has created challenging conditions for our farmers.
“With a well-deserved reputation for resilience, Scotland’s farmers are continuing to make the most of the opportunities ahead.
However, there is no escaping the fact that this has been a difficult year which is why we are doing all we can to support farmers.
“As well as prioritising Single Farm Payments – which provide a valuable lifeline for many farmers – we are also updating the banks on the payment situation and urging them to show leniency to those farmers who have yet to receive their payments.
“Help is also on hand for farmers encountering problems with the slurry rules. Even in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones our area office staff have been able to work with farmers to avoid or reduce penalties – of the small number of farmers who have contacted us so far for help, most have avoided penalties completely.
“While we have already taken sensible steps to help farmers, I would like to make clear that we stand willing to do more as we work with the NFUS and others to try and deliver solutions.”
It was also confirmed today that a future round of Rural Priorities funding for Axis One (business restructuring, development and innovation) and Three (rural enterprise), targeted at new entrants, will be held in 2013.
Mr Lochhead said:
“I am sure farmers will welcome the news that there will be a further round of Axis One and Three Rural Priorities funding, open to new entrants, next year. We are committed to supporting this vital group of farmers in rural business development projects to enhance the future of Scottish agriculture as we near the end of the current programme, when budgets are limited to key priority areas.”
The Axis One and Three Rural Priorities funding round will be held in June 2013. This will be open to applicants who meet the criteria of the Interest Rate Relief Option of the scheme.