Weather hits Scotland’s farmers and crofters hard

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The prolonged spell of wet weather from June through September is continuing to hit Scotland’s farmers and crofters hard.

At the Union’s Board of Directors meeting, held in head office at Edinburgh yesterday (Tuesday, September 26), members representing every region of Scotland outlined a growing list of problems being created by the persistent rainfall.

These include:

Substantial amounts of cereal and potato harvest still to be completed and ground conditions are making ploughing and planting of winter crops difficult.

Significant volumes of straw still to be baled, leaving livestock farmers short of winter bedding.

Many areas report silage-making still to be carried out and stocks are short.

With cattle already in winter housing, slurry stores are filling with ground conditions preventing spreading from taking place.

NFU Scotland’s President Andrew McCornick has visited all regions in recent weeks and will re-visit the worst-affected areas in early October.

Today’s announcement from Scottish Government that the application deadline to the Scottish Upland Sheep Support Scheme is to be extended to 30 November follows the Union writing to Scottish Government in early September highlighting the difficulties hill farmers and crofters were having in carrying out routine work.

NFUS has also raised with Scottish Government the problems many farmers are experiencing in complying with the Greening element of their support claims, from planting green cover ahead of the deadline to sowing crops to allow compliance with the ‘three-crop rule’.

The Union has also formally requested that, for those livestock farmers in Nitrate Vulnerable Zones whose closed period on spreading slurry is due to start on 15 October that this is delayed to 30 October.

NFU Scotland President Andrew McCornick said: “Farmers and crofters are well used to dealing with the weather but this year, more than most, the elements are truly testing their resilience. Yesterday’s board meeting saw farmers from Shetland to Stranraer confirm that all parts of Scotland are being challenged by the ongoing wet weather.

“Everything is proceeding on a stop/start basis, as they dodge between the rain to make the most of any dry spell, and that is only adding to the frustration.

“The reality is that the weather will add cost for all. Cereal growers face a costly drying bill so that their crops can be safely stored without spoiling. Livestock keepers, with some herds already housed, will need more winter feed and bedding while facing difficulties in spreading slurry. We hope that, for those in NVZ areas who see the closed period for spreading looming, that we can secure an extension.

“It’s always a major headache in the planning of arable rotations when there is a sustained period of poor weather through the late summer and autumn. That issue is compounded by the blunt demands of the crop diversification requirements under Greening. This is one of the reasons that we think the so-called three crop rule should be dismantled.

“On green cover, the Scottish Government has reminded us that farmers can put their green cover into a different field than originally planned – but they do need to tell their local office that they are doing so. Secondly, establishment of the cover does not need to be by drilling; broadcasting seed is an acceptable alternative.

“Any members concerned about meeting the green cover requirement are urged to contact their regional manager to discuss the matter.”