Farm fund to help remove dead sheep
Up to £250,000 will be available for farmers to meet the costs of removing sheep killed by the recent snowstorms, the Government said.
The money, which is the latest move to help producers hit by the extreme conditions, was welcomed by farming leaders as a "huge relief" for families struggling to cope with the consequences of the snow.
The UK suffered the coldest March for 50 years with icy conditions lingering well into April. Blizzards left sheep stranded in snowdrifts and with lambing already under way, many farmers lost newborn lambs in the freezing weather.
Farming minister David Heath 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. I'm pleased to be able to announce this support today and call upon the public to lend their own support to our farmers by choosing British lamb."
National Farmers' Union deputy president Meurig Raymond said: "This very welcome move by Defra will come as a huge relief to those farming families who have struggled with the worst snow in living memory and have since faced the very specific problem of the cost of removal of large numbers of dead animals. The NFU will now continue to work very closely with the Government on the detail of exactly how this money will be distributed."
Collectors have been encouraged to offer discounted rates for removing more than 10 sheep at a time and farmers will be reimbursed in line with the discounted rate for the sheep they have paid to remove.
Farmers have already been permitted to bury or burn livestock onsite if snow makes it difficult to get them to a collection vehicle, and rules on driver hours have been relaxed to allow extra time for animal feed deliveries, the Environment Department said.
The £250,000 is being made available by Defra to farmers in England. The Scottish Government announced £500,000 funding last month to meet the costs to farmers of collection of fallen stock in Scotland.
In Northern Ireland, where farmers were severely hit by the snow, more than 8,000 sheep and other livestock were collected in a state-funded disposal scheme which formed part of an aid package to farmers. And in Wales, the Government has taken a series of steps, including providing £500,000 to several charities to help farming families affected by the extreme weather.