Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Prince’s Countryside Fund gives emergency cash as farmers face crisis this winter

The Prince’s Countryside Fund has announced it will donate £150,000 from its emergency fund to help farmers who are struggling through the winter months as a result of this year’s extreme weather. This summer was the second wettest in the UK since records began, Met Office figures indicated. A drought across much of England during the spring followed by record-breaking wet weather has meant a poor harvest for many farmers, resulting in higher costs to keep livestock and high seed prices for next year’s crops.   

Last night, at a meeting called by The Prince of Wales with the leaders of the UK rural charities (The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Farm Crisis Network and the Addington Fund in England and Wales, and RSABI in Scotland), it was agreed £150,000, the entire amount in the emergency fund, would be donated to helping farmers in crisis across the UK. Following the meeting, The Duke of Westminster has generously confirmed he will personally match the funding and donate an additional £150,000 taking the total amount raised so far to £300,000.
The funding will be distributed among a number of charities and used to help farmers struggling financially as result of the extreme weather this summer which led to a shortage of grazing, low stocks of forage and a poor harvest, compounded by the rising cost of feed and fuel.

In addition there have been health issues for livestock as a result of the wet weather, with some of the highest incidence of liver fluke, affecting cattle and sheep, ever seen. Whilst arable farmers are also having a dreadful year and it is clear that next year will be no better with water logged seedbeds, very poor establishment of autumn sown crops and many fields remaining un sown.

Hosting the meeting at Clarence House on Monday December 17th,, The Prince of Wales 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 at their quarterly meeting that we would divide £150k between you”.

At the meeting Farm Crisis Network confirmed that casework is already double that experienced normally at this time of year in the South West and North West while The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has paid out two-and-a-half times as much money in emergency payments to two-thirds more working farmers than in the same period last year.

Some of the charities supply food vouchers, while volunteers have started to carry Foodbank boxes in their cars to give immediate help when they visit people. In addition it is a sad fact that whilst in normal times, farmers are at high risk of contemplating suicide, extended periods of stress which are a feature of this exceptional year, greatly increase that risk. All of the Farming Help charities’ helplines have received calls from individuals contemplating suicide. 

Lord Curry of Kirkharle, a Trustee of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, said: “This is the first time that the Countryside Fund has utilised all of its emergency funding and is a reflection of what a difficult time this is for farmers. Farms have been hit hard by the poor weather and it is only going to get worse as the need to buy in feed at inflated prices and the increase in other costs begins to have a serious effect on cash flow. In addition arable farmers are having a dreadful year and it is clear that next year will be no better. The impact will probably be felt in January and February onwards so it is particularly well timed to release the money now and ensure the charities can prepare for the increase in demand for their services.”

 The Prince’s Countryside Fund was set up in July 2010 by Business in the Community and is the brainchild of The Prince of Wales who has a long-held commitment to supporting Britain’s hard pressed rural areas. So far it has given over £1.7 million in grants distributed to over 50 projects across the country, directly benefitting nearly 20,000 people. Projects that have been funded range from apprenticeships for budding hill farmers, training for young people to gain employment in the rural economy, community transport schemes in isolated rural areas and projects to educate school children about where their food comes from and why the countryside matters. In addition to its normal application process, the Fund also operates an emergency fund for times of need. All the projects focus on supporting the people who care for our countryside and make it tick.

Donations can be made online at Virgin Giving,  at the Post Office or by Text. Text PCF to 70300 and a £3 donation will be made to The Prince’s Countryside Fund. Until March 2013 all donations will be given directly to the Farming Help Charities.

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