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Cash delays push farmers to brink
CASH-STRAPPED farmers in north
Northumberland could be driven to commit suicide because of delays to vital
Farmers were expecting to receive a share
of the £1.6million Single Payment Scheme (SPS) by the end of March but
three-quarters of those in England have not yet been paid.
council delegate for Northumberland National Farmers Union (NFU), of Abberwick,
near Alnwick, said: "Farmers can't pay their bills and the stress factor of it
is worse because it is right on lambing and spring calving time.
concerned about the money but what worries us is that it is going to end up with
a fatality – people could kill themselves over it."
The new SPS, which
accounts for about 40 per cent of farmers' income, bases payments on the area or
land farmers manage, not on what is produced.
Scheme deliverers The Rural
Payments Agency (RPA), an executive agency of Defra, had promised that the money
would be paid by March 31.
The agency's chief executive was replaced last
month after the pledge was not met and the new head has streamlined the
process.It now says payments will arrive by the end of June.
But by contrast,
98 per cent of farmers in Europe, including those in Scotland, received their
money before Christmas.
Mr Frater said: "Why are we having to
Northumberland NFU has called for the Agriculture Minister Lord Bach
and the Secretary of State Margaret Beckett to step down over the payments
Farm Crisis Network (FCN), a charity which supports farmers and their
families through difficult times, saw its call numbers rise by nearly 40 per
cent last year and expects them to rise further.
North East co-ordinator Hugh
Logan, of Fenton Hill Farm, near Wooler, said: "It is possible this could lead
to an increase in suicides among farmers. It is putting enormous pressure on
family relationships and leading to mental health problems."
Mr Logan said
there had been five suicides within the region's farming community in the last
A Defra spokesman said: "We accept it is a difficult time for many
farmers with payments not being made but we can assure that staff are working
flat out to get these payments made as quickly as possible.
"We hope that no
farmer is driven to suicide because of this and we thank farmers for their
Defra run the advice line Rural Stress Information
Network. Contact 02476 412916, lines are open 9am to 5pm. FCN's help line is
07002 326 326 and is open 7am to 11pm every day.
06 April 2006