Sheep Industry (Severe Weather)

Environment Food and Rural Affairs written statement – made on 18th April 2013.

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Photo of David Heath David Heath The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am today announcing details of additional support for those sheep farmers in England who have suffered devastating losses as a result of the severe weather last month.

Up to £250,000 will be available to reimburse farmers for the very specific problem of removing animals that have died on-farm through asphyxiation, starvation or hypothermia as a direct result of the March snowfall. This level of funding reflects the latest information on stock losses identified by the National Farmers Union. We will now be working with the NFU, the National Fallen Stock Company and other industry representatives to finalise arrangements for funding and to ensure that it is well targeted.

This funding will build on the programme of support which we have already put in place to help affected farmers. DEFRA has permitted the burial or burning of livestock on site if the conditions are too difficult to get carcases to a collection vehicle. We have relaxed the rules on drivers’ hours to allow extra time for essential deliveries of animal feed. Natural England has temporarily lifted some of the land management requirements that normally apply to environmental stewardship agreements, so that farmers and growers have more flexibility to deal with the impact of this extreme and unseasonable weather.

DEFRA has worked closely with the National Fallen Stock Company to encourage collectors to offer discounted rates for removing more than 10 sheep at a time. Farmers who have suffered heavy losses will be reimbursed in line with these discounted rates for the sheep they have paid to remove.

We also need to consider the longer term. In May, the Secretary of State will host a meeting of industry representatives, farming charities and banks to highlight the financial impact this exceptional weather is having on farm businesses and to see what more can be done to support farmers who are struggling financially.

As I saw on my recent visit to Cumbria and listening to those involved, the loss of sheep during some of the worst snow in living memory has taken a terrible emotional and financial toll on those farmers affected, which is why I am happy to announce this additional measure today. I am grateful to all those who have offered and provided assistance to them at a very difficult time. I call upon the public and food businesses to help our farmers by buying British lamb.