£19m aid package for sheep farmers secured

Scotland's farming union has welcomed the £19m in emergency aid announced yesterday for Scotland's sheep industry

, which it believes will provide an immediate lifeline to some of the farms facing financial ruin as a result of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak. This money will provide a payment of £6 to each breeding ewe, but this represents only around half the losses being faced by the sheep industry.

The National Farmers' Union of Scotland (NFUS) has stressed that the rescue package announced yesterday by the Scottish government pales in comparison to the financial crisis being faced by farmers as a result of the FMD outbreak. It also provides no aid to other sectors of the livestock industry, which are also suffering welfare and financial problems.

Also announced in addition to the sheep aid was £1m for Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) to promote red meat, £200,000 for Scotland's main rural charity and £60,000 for the Royal Highland Education Trust to raise the profile of food and farming. This money comes in addition to funds already committed earlier this month to the welfare scheme for light lambs.

NFUS has been involved in intense discussions with governments both in London and Edinburgh over the last few weeks, highlighting the scale of crisis facing Scotland farms as a result of FMD escaping from the government-regulated laboratory in Surrey. NFUS had estimated the package required to cover initial losses would be at least £50-60m in Scotland. The union is continuing to explore all options to get full compensation.

Reacting to the package announced in Holyrood, NFUS president Jim McLaren said: "The Scottish government has stepped in to provide a financial lifeline to the sheep industry, which has been devastated over the last few weeks. The crippling movement restrictions, twinned with a collapse in the price of lamb, has threatened the whole future of the sheep industry with the very real likelihood that our breeding flock, upon which the future rests, would disappear this winter.

"Today's rescue package is just that. It is not compensation for losses, which go far higher than the money announced today. For a farmer with a 1,000 breeding sheep, he will be facing losses in excess of £20,000. This aid package would put £6,000 into that business. That may just be enough to cover the bills he's facing now and bring some immediate relief, but it doesn't get close to addressing his losses.

"It is a bitter disappointment that the welfare problems facing the pigs and dairy industry have not been recognised in today's package. Both government and industry must now look urgently at getting export restrictions further unwound and processors must use the private storage aid made available by Brussels for pigmeat.

"We are an industry crippled by a disastrous set of circumstances that are not of our making and are the result of negligence. Over the next few days we will be looking further into options to get full justice and compensation for our members."

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