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Tynwald asked to consider drought relief scheme to help farmers

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Tynwald is being asked to consider a £1.2 million scheme of grants to help farmers who have been affected by a cold and wet spring followed by one of the warmest and driest summers since 1976.

The cold, wet weather slowed grass growth in spring, which delayed livestock being put out to pasture. This meant farmers were forced to keep livestock inside and dip into their supplies of feed and bedding usually reserved for the winter.

The summer drought that followed meant that grass and crops continued to struggle to grow. 

The number of crops surviving through to harvest this year has reduced considerably. As a result many farmers have been left with a significant reduction in produce for use as feed and bedding, or to sell on the open market.

The same problem is being experienced across the UK and Ireland, meaning there is a surge in demand for feed and bedding which has seen prices triple in some instances, significantly increasing costs for some farmers.

The funding, approved by the Treasury, would come from Government’s Contingency Fund, which sets money aside for exceptional situations, such as this year’s drought.

The funding has been calculated using data held by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture (DEFA) and the grants would vary depending on the type of livestock and/or crops of each farm. 

Subject to Tynwald approval, most payments would be made in two parts, the first in November this year and the second in March 2019.

Farmers registered with the DEFA as part of the Agricultural Development Scheme and the cattle database BITs would have a pre-populated form sent to them. Other producers who have been affected can complete an online form via DEFA’s website later this month if the scheme is approved by Tynwald. Only those that produce crops or animals for commercial purposes would be considered for the grant.

Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture, Geoffrey Boot MHK, said:

'We know that farmers have been hit hard by the exceptional weather that we encountered this year. 

'We need to prevent our farmers having bedding or food shortages this winter and being left with little choice but to sell off their animals cheaply.  Not only will this hurt farmer’s incomes, it could also mean a significant reduction in the Island’s livestock which could impact on meat and dairy supplies and prices in 2019.

'We have worked with the industry and the Manx National Farmers Union to come up with a scheme that we believe will help address the consequences of this year’s difficult weather and in doing so support our farming community through these very difficult times.'

Subject to Tynwald approval the scheme would commence on the 19 October 2018 with a deadline for applications of 31 October.

Brian Brumby, President of the Manx National Farmers' Union, said:

'This is probably the worst drought most Manx people have known in their lifetimes, and certainly on a par with the last serious drought we had, which was in 1976.

'What's more, the drought came on the back of a very wet, cold and difficult winter which meant fodder and bedding supplies were extremely low, if not completely used up across the Island as the farmers went into spring 2018.'

Further information about the scheme and the application process is available by contacting DEFA on 685844 emailing agriculture@gov.im.

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