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Volume 884: debated on Wednesday 15 January 1975

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether any assistance will be given to hill farmers in Scotland to overcome fodder shortages in certain areas; and if he will make a statement.

After consultations with the Scottish National Farmers' Union, the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Crofters Commission I have introduced a short-term scheme to assist farmers and crofters in certain areas where home-grown feed supplies have been particularly affected by last year's harvesting conditions.The scheme will apply to the counties of Argyll, Inverness, Ross and Cromarty and Sutherland and also to Arran, which comprise the main areas of fodder deficiency. Farmers in these areas whose farms are classified B or C for winter keep purposes—I and II in the case of crofts—will be able to apply to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland for payment of one-third of the total cost of buying in feed. These payments will be subject to a financial limit set at £6 per hill cow on C farms and £4 per hill cow on B farms—or the equivalent croft classifications—up to an overall limit of 10 cows per holding.Payment will be made in respect of feed consigned by vendors on or after 1st January 1975 up to 1st March 1975. Applications for assistance supported by consignment invoices must be in the hands of the Department by 10th March.The cost of these payments is estimated to be of the order of £100,000. I thought it right to announce the scheme during the recess to dispel uncertainty. Supplementary Estimates will be presented in due course and meanwhile I shall have recourse to the Contingencies Fund.I can also confirm that, as a further measure to help Scottish hill farmers in general, arrangements have been completed with the banks for extended credit facilities, on the lines set out in the statement by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 11th December 1974. In addition, the three colleges of agriculture have suspended until 1st June 1975 the charges made for certain services relating to feeding stuffs and animal nutrition.