Farmers jamming crisis help lines

Farmers are jamming crisis helplines following months of misery in the beleaguered industry.

Problems caused by the summer floods, quickly followed by outbreaks of bovine TB, foot and mouth disease, avian flu and blue tongue have led to a 60 per cent rise in phone calls to the Farmers Crisis Network helpline, with other support agencies seeing similar increases.

A report from the network has said more farmers than ever are finding life increasingly tough, with an increase in anxiety, relationship and financial problems.

Graham Hinds, East Midlands co-ordinator for the Farm Crisis Helpline, said livestock farmers had been particularly affected and faced a bleak outlook.

He said: "It started with the summer floods and restrictions in the movement of cattle, particularly because of blue tongue, has affected farmers in Northamptonshire.

"Added to this, livestock prices have plummeted and this has affected the farmers' cash flows considerably. Some have had to take out loans and mortgages and there are a lot of financial problems.

"Northamptonshire is blessed with excellent arable land and grain prices were very good in the summer. But livestock farmers are having to cope with high feed prices because of a worldwide shortage of wheat.

"Livestock farmers are very pessimistic and the outlook is not good."

Trevor Foss, the former chairman of the National Farmers' Union branch for Northamptonshire, said the Government should do more to ease the situation.

He said: "The Scottish parliament is helping its lamb farmers and so is the Welsh.

"But our Government continually refused to help and doesn't show any concern for farming issues.

"It is not even using British meat to feed the armed forces.

"Livestock farming is pretty dire at the moment.

"Prices have hit the floor and we've only just got back our export trade.

"Farmers are having a serious think about where they are going in the future and younger people are not coming into farming."

nicola.shaw@northantsnews.co.uk