Scottish farmers whose businesses were hit by recent spells of severe weather can apply for their share of £6m of financial support.

Scottish rural affairs Richard Lochhead announced the Weather Aid scheme last month to provide “badly needed assistance for those hardest hit”.

The scheme, which opened this week, offers financial help to farmers who suffered livestock and crop losses in the severe snowstorms of late March, the wet and cold weather endured throughout 2012/13 and the sandstorms of early May.

Application forms and detailed guidance is now available on the Scottish government website. Farmers have been given a deadline of Friday 5 July to apply.

NFU Scotland’s president Nigel Miller is a member of the group of industry stakeholders who will assist the government in assessing applications.

He said: “The weather of 2012 left many farm businesses in a difficult position and the spring of 2013 has been both exceptional and extreme and had a huge impact on many livestock and arable farmers in the country.”Our recent survey underlined the costs farmers have faced and showed that half of respondents had extended their borrowings in recent weeks, with 13% having difficulties in securing further credit.”This package recognises that and has been designed to help those who have lost critical numbers of stock or will rear significantly fewer animals this season.

“It will also assist those who have had to strip out and replant large areas of failed crops.”

If the scheme is over-subscribed, businesses most affected by the snowstorms in late March, as well as farms not currently receiving support through schemes such as single farm payment and less favoured areas support will be prioritised.

A recent NFUS survey showed that more than 80% of Scottish farmers were expecting their output to be down in 2013 because of the weather.

Mr Miller added: “The aid scheme is most welcome and timely and has the potential to help struggling farmers with a cashflow lifeline later this summer.

“It is clear that things will be tough this year and it may be 2014 before we see a sustained recovery.”

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