Charity highlights damaging impact of wet weather on rural farm businesses
UNPRECEDENTED and prolonged wet weather in recent months, as well as recent heavy snowfall, has had an adverse and increasingly worrying impact across many farms in Northern Ireland due to the problems associated with saturated ground, according to the charity Rural Support.
It says many local farming communities have been affected by losing crops, missing production deadlines and land, buildings, laneways and in some cases, machinery destroyed and livestock lost.
That has led to a spike in the number of calls to its helpline - and has prompted the charity to demand politicians react to help deal with this crisis for rural communities.
Jude McCann, chief executive of Rural Support, said: “Working in the agricultural sector is a difficult job, even without the additional stress and toll that severe weather conditions have on farming. The impact of such conditions cannot be underestimated.
“Farmers are really feeling the strain and we have seen an increase in calls to our helpline since August.”
Rural Support's trained staff, volunteers and highly experienced mentors provide support both face-to-face or via a confidential helpline, as well as delivering on-farm business support services to farmers and rural dwellers across the north, but Jude believes more needs to be done.
He added: “Our rural communities need leadership and a functioning Executive that can make decisions and release funds that will help them get back on their feet following these trying times.
"In the meantime, Rural Support will continue to support rural communities in moving forward, so we are calling on anyone in need of assistance to call our helpline and avail of our services."
David Butler from Eglinton is one of many farmers severely affected by the storms.
He said: “The weather has had a devastating impact on my crops. Not only have I been unable to plough the last few months, but the state of the land means I may not be able to prepare for spring either. This has left me with environmental problems to deal with and a financial burden, as well as the strain it is causing on my health.
"It is so disheartening. We feel like we've been forgotten about, and engaging with the local agencies to resolve the issues has been difficult. Thankfully Rural Support has helped us and we met recently with representatives to look at how things can be improved. They really have been a lifeline to us.”
Rural Support was formed in 2002 following the Foot and Mouth epidemic. To speak to someone in confidence contact its helpline on 0845 606 7 607 from 9am-9pm Monday to Friday (voicemail and support options available at all other times) or visit www.ruralsupport.org.uk