NFU warns many farmers are now at breaking point

An exceptionally wet winter leading into a wet spring has put more pressure on farmers already struggling with late subsidy payments and falling profit margins.

Wednesday, 6th April 2016, 3:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2016, 3:17 pm
Calum Kerr (centre) during a farm visit to McGregor Farms, Coldstream with Colin McGregor (left) and NFU Scotland President Allan Bowie (right).

Checking in with farmers the length and breadth of the country, NFU Scotland has found that unsurprisingly the stop/start spring is proving frustrating, and according to Duns farmer Neil White “this is the latest ever sowing dates for most in the area.”

Of more concern, though, is that Scottish farmers’ representatives have sounded a warning that more people in the sector are suffering from depression and even contemplating suicide because of poor prices.

Reporting on how the weather has impacted so far this year Mr White, who farms at Greenknowe, near Swinton, said: “Things are very slow here in Berwickshire. Some beans, oats and a little barley has been sown but lower lying and early ploughed ground is still wet underneath. This is the latest ever sowing dates for most in the area and no sign at the moment of the weather settling into a drier trend.

“Winter crops look good having had their fertiliser and the slight rise in temperature has greened up some very yellow winter barleys. Oil seed rape is now growing away from the pigeons as other crops distract their attention. The main concern for most spring malting barley growers is a late sowing date can effect nitrogen content, often pushing it up.”

Colin McGregor of Coldstream Mains, who hosted a recent visit by Borders MP Calum Kerr and NFU Scotland president Allan Bowie, knows all about wet weather. The Lees field at Coldstream that he farms flooded five times in a two month period, when it is normally expected to flood once every eight years.

He said: “Our Tweedside land and crops are drying out and recovering from an extremely wet November, December and January when 60% of our annual average rainfall fell in three months. Some of our land flooded five times in this period.

“We are grateful for the support we have received from Scottish Border Council in helping to restore the core path network adjacent to The Tweed and The Scottish Government for assistance in repairing our flood defences.

Poor weather is something farmers learn to live with but politics and prices can be challenged and representatives from a total of nearly 3000 farmers from Scotland and the rest of the UK travelled to London this week to and handed in a letter to Number 10 for David Cameron.

“An on-going frustration for all agricultural businesses is the increasing regulatory burden the industry faces on the Scottish side of the Border and the failing of the Scottish Government’s systems to manage this,” added Mr McGregor.

Borders MP Calum Kerr met with some of the Scottish farmers who took part in the demonstration, saying that the market is broken.