The Panel met on 4 April, 2018 in Perth.
In addition to Scottish Government officials, the meeting was attended by the Met Office, SRUC, NFUS, the Clearing Banks, RSABI, SEPA, and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.
The Panel discussed the impact that both the recent exceptional weather conditions, notably heavy snow, and the sustained wet weather over the last nine months has had on farmers and crofters in many parts of the country.
In particular, the Panel was concerned about the cumulative impact of the weather, including loss of stock in some cases, coupled with long working hours on farmers’ wellbeing.
The Panel noted action in hand to gather information about loss of stock and consider what financial or other practical support might be possible. The Panel agreed to highlight the support provided by organisations such as the Farm Advisory Service and RSABI, as well as the work of the National Rural Mental Health Forum. The Panel also noted the potential impact on animal health and welfare.
The Panel discussed the findings of the December Agriculture Survey and the Scottish Government/SRUC straw and forage study, published the same day, which presented some options that farmers could consider in light of the high cost of straw.
Given the impact of a late Spring, the Panel agreed to highlight the importance for farmers and crofters of planning ahead now for next Winter.
In particular, the Panel discussed the advice available through the Farm Advisory Service, including on feed budgeting, which can be contacted on 0300 323 0161 or by email at: email@example.com.
The Panel also concluded there could be significant value in greater co-operation between rural businesses themselves to build resilience in the face of adverse weather and economic factors, for example around shared use of machinery or moving stock to different locations locally or nationally in anticipation of fodder shortages or difficult weather conditions.
In the short term, the Panel encourage farmers to co-operate wherever possible to make the most of available feed stocks in the last weeks of this winter and, crucially, to start planning their options for next winter given the early indications of potential pressure on straw supplies.