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Friday, 01 August 2014

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Government help for Cumbrian farmers whose sheep killed in snow

Farmers whose sheep were killed in last month’s freak snow have welcomed the news they will be reimbursed for their losses.

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Farming minister David Heath has pledged £250,000 to cover the cost of removing livestock that perished in severe weather conditions.

Mr Heath appeared “visibly shocked” when he visited the worst-hit areas in the Lake District fells last week.

Making the announcement he said: “As I saw on my recent visit to Cumbria, the loss of sheep in recent snow has taken a terrible emotional and financial toll on farmers. We have been working with the National Fallen Stock Company to find the fairest way to help them meet the cost of removing their stock.”

Farms around the upland areas of Broughton, Millom, Eskdale, Wasdale, Langdale and Ulpha were badly affected by the snow drifts which in parts were over 30ft.

It is believed upwards of 7,000 sheep perished in the worst March snowfall for 50 years.

Ravenglass farmer, Alistair Mackintosh and NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond were instrumental in persuading the minister to visit the area.

Mr Mackintosh, who is NFU Cumbria council delegate, said: “This is a welcome temporary stopgap for an immediate problem which will have adverse effects on the farmers involved for many years.”

He added: “What we have to do now is to sort out a timescale for picking up these dead animals. We also need to identify the farmers affected.”

NFU north west regional director, Robert Sheasby said the minister must be applauded for recognising the pressures these farmers face following an unexpected natural disaster.

The NFU has now pledged to work closely with the Government on the detail of exactly how the money will be distributed.

“It has to be solely for those farmers who lost livestock in the blizzards of a month ago,” added Mr Mackintosh.

Defra had already permitted farmers to bury or burn livestock on site if snow made it difficult to get them to a collection vehicle.

This provoked an outcry amongst farmers who said it evoked horrific images witnessed during the 2001 foot and mouth crisis.

Defra also relaxed rules on driver hours to allow extra time for essential deliveries of animal feed.

Copeland and Penrith and the Border MPs Jamie Reed and Rory Stewart also welcomed the fund.

But Mr Reed said he would contact farmers and NFU representatives in his constituency to ask if the help is sufficient.

Mr Stewart said: “This is wonderful news, and is the second time in under a month that ministers have responded to Cumbria’s farming needs – the first was when they suspended EU regulations to allow farmers to get feed trucks to isolated farms.”

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