South Scotland

£6m aid package for snow-hit farmers

A £6m aid package for farmers affected by recent severe snows and last year's wet weather has been announced by Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead.

It aims to provide "badly needed assistance for those hardest hit".

An industry group, chaired by Chief Agricultural Officer Drew Sloan, will develop the details of the package.

The funding announcement is in addition to the £500,000 already announced to help deal with the costs of fallen stock during the March snows.

Mr Lochhead recently saw first-hand the impact of the blast of wintry weather on the agricultural industry in a visit to a farm near Gatehouse of Fleet.

NFU Scotland president Nigel Miller told him at the time that the impact of the snow in areas such as Dumfries and Galloway, Arran and Kintyre had been "severe".

Now Mr Lochhead has confirmed an aid package to help those affected.

"Mother nature has battered parts of Scotland in recent months with the worst snow in living memory coming hard on the heels of a miserably wet summer," he said.

"This is undoubtedly a major challenge for the industry.

"While farmers are used to operating in volatile conditions, these latest problems are giving them sleepless nights.

"The severe weather - which hit when ewes were lambing and at a time when some stock was already weakened by previous poor weather - has led to severe losses for some farmers."

He said the Scottish government had "acted swiftly to provide assistance".

"A team of industry experts, who will further develop the detail of the aid scheme, will meet for the first time next week," he added.

"The group will ensure the aid is targeted at those who need it most, providing a badly-needed lifeline to help them get back on their feet."

Mr Miller welcomed the support package as a "very positive result" which could be a "lifeline" for many.

Image caption Many farms are still recovering after heavy snowfalls this spring

"Some of the worst storms of recent times might now have passed, but they have 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," he said.

"There are some areas of the country where the winter snowstorms devastated, particularly sheep stocks and some early lambs.

"But the severe weather problems of 2012 and 2013 have impacted not just in these areas but across the whole of Scotland resulting in livestock and crop losses, as well as significantly increased feed requirements. "

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