FARMERS struggling to cope with the effects of this year’s extreme weather are to benefit from a £150,000 lifeline donated by the Prince of Wales’s countryside body.
The organisation will distribute the cash between four charities which support rural communities in a bid to avert a crisis this winter.
The money will help farmers struggling financially following the winter drought and wet summer, which has led to a shortage of grazing land, low stocks of fodder and a poor harvest, compounded by the rising cost of feed and fuel.
Charles called a meeting last night with the leaders of the four rural charities to discuss the issue, and it was agreed the Prince’s Countryside Fund would donate its entire emergency fund of £150,000 to help the farmers.
The Duke of Westminster has also matched the amount donated by Charles’s organisation to help alleviate the problem.
Lord Curry, who runs a 440-acre arable farm near Hexham and is a trustee of the fund, said: “The weather has had a dramatic impact on farming. The flooding has been devastating for a lot of farmers, and beyond that the weather conditions have had a dramatic impact on the livestock sector.
“Many farmers with livestock have not been able to make adequate fodder to see them through the winter, or the fodder is such poor quality they face real problems this winter.”
For the arable sector, waterlogged fields this autumn meant crops could not be sown or those that were have not germinated properly, while outbreaks of the liver fluke parasite in sheep and cattle are reaching high levels due to the wet weather.
During last night’s meeting at Clarence House, Charles said: “I have been growing increasingly concerned about the many difficulties which farmers from all sectors are facing – and are likely to face – this winter and so I thought it was important for us to come together, hear what we each have to report and then I want to see what I can do to help through my Prince’s Countryside Fund.
“When I set up my Countryside Fund in 2010, I and the trustees decided from the start that we would always keep a lump sum available to be used for any farming emergency. Indeed some of you have already received help from this fund in the past. But I think we are all agreed that many British farmers are facing an emergency situation, and so I am very pleased that the trustees agreed that we would divide £150,000 between you.”
Earlier this year the agriculture industry endured its second unusually dry winter in a row which led to hosepipe bans being introduced in the spring across swathes of southern England by water companies.
Then England and Wales experienced the wettest summer for 100 years, with 14.25in (362mm) of rain falling in June, July and August.
Lord Curry added: “We’re concerned that if we don’t do something both the welfare of the animals and the welfare of the farmers is at risk. His Royal Highness is concerned about this and is very sensitive to the needs of the agriculture sector.”
The organisations which will receive the donated funds are the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), Farm Crisis Network, the Royal Scottish Agricultural Benevolent Institution and the Addington Fund.
At last night’s meeting, Farm Crisis Network – which supports farming people suffering from anxiety or stress – said its casework in the South West and North West had doubled for the time of year.