It's a frequently heard joke that summer doesn't really exist in Scotland. Often, after one or two days of blue skies and no rain, you will hear a pedestrian remark: "Well that's it then - that was our summer. The rain and cold will be back tomorrow". Summer 2018, has, of course, proven rather different. Whilst many of us were no doubt anticipating another season of sodden barbecues, flooded Highland Games and hot water bottles in August, we were instead met with the hottest Scottish summer since 2003.
As temperatures soared over 30 degrees Celsius and much of Scotland's populace basked in what local newspapers remarked as "the longest heatwave in 42 years", farmers across the country began to feel the strain. As holiday suntans begin to fadeand the autumnal weather creeps in, the challenges the summer weather has posed to farming communities across Scotland are becoming clear.
During the heatwave, multiple regions of Scotland experienced water shortages with the North Highlands and Moray regions enduring what the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) defined as "significant water scarcity". Due to this lack of water, many farmers across Scotland were compelled to restrict irrigation during the summer months.
Now that the hot weather has subsided and with harvesteither in or imminent, these farmers are dealing with the impact that a lack of water has had on their land and crops.Many arelooking at a winter of supplementing theirown storesand are faced with substantial price rises onanimal feed and fodder, leading to advice being given to consider rationingto prioritise breeding stocks.
Scottish Government response
Speaking prior to his meeting last month with the Scottish Whisky Association to discuss the impact of the extreme summer weather on the whisky industry, Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing commented that the recent "prolonged dry weather conditions" combined with the effects of a late spring and wet 2017 will have a "lengthy and significant impact on the rural economy".
The Scottish Government is taking a dual approachin terms of strategies fordealing with this "significant impact".
Short term - Loan Support Scheme
In order to provide immediate financial support for Scottish farmers who are suffering through the immediate aftermath of the extreme summer weather, a National Basic Payment Support Scheme (NBPSS) has been launched. Early indications suggest that this scheme will be a loan scheme, similar to that provided in response to the uncommonly wet weather experienced throughout Scotland last year.
According to the Scottish Government, these loans will provide eligible farmers with up to 90% of the sum they are due under their 2018 Basic Payment Scheme payments, and payments will be made available to eligible farmers from the start of October. The loan will be available on an "opt-in basis" and the sums provided will be offset against Basic Payment Scheme payments. Further information on eligibility and timings will be provided on the Scottish Government Rural Payments and Services webpage
Long term - Agriculture Weather Advisory Panel
Looking ahead to more far-reaching and long-term approaches to dealing with extreme summer weather, Fergus Ewing has called upon the Agriculture Weather Advisory Panel to provide advice to the farming community. Speaking last month, Ewing stated that the panel - which includes members of the National Farmers Union Scotland, SRUC, the Agricultural Industries Confederation, the Met Office, the Scottish Government and Scottish Environment Protection Agency amongst others - will provide advice on forward planning and collaborative action across the farming industry.
As global temperatures continue to rise, it is likely that Scotland will face further unpredictable and extreme weather in the future. The Agriculture Weather Advisory Panel's aim is to act as an information taskforce that will prepare the farming community to face any future extreme weather conditions that come our way.
For any further advice or information on any of the points raised above, please get in touch with your usual Brodies contact.