Rory raised the exceptional and devastating circumstances facing Cumbrian sheep farmers in a debate in parliament on Tuesday, 23 April. He drew attention not just to the recent heavy snowfall, but the many months of terrible weather conditions that preceded this. He particularly drew attention to the problems in the Bailey and Bewcastle valleys in the North of his constituency. Speaking at the debate Rory Stewart said:

“We need to put the recent snowfall into a much broader context of the very difficult time sheep farmers have been having in general. In the Bailey and Bewcastle valleys, it has been nearly two years of horror – with poached soil, and fluke. Now there is the heavy snow that fell in Cumbria in March. If we are to retain the fabric of small farms, we need to think hard about what measures can be put in place over the next two to three years to preserve our small farms for the future.”

The minister for farming, David Heath, thanked Rory and the other MPs who had taken the time to highlight to him the scale and extent of the problems facing farmers within their own constituencies. He stated that Government would continue to do all it could to support sheep-farming. The Minister added:

“When I visited Cumbria recently there was still a lot of snow and we still cannot quantify the full scale of the damage. I am grateful to NFU Cumbria and Cumbrian farmers themselves for helping me understand what they are up against, and I was really struck by the way in which the farming and rural communities have still managed to respond in a positive way, lending support to their neighbours wherever possible. There is a real sense of devastation in the farming community, with many now extremely worried about the future. It is important therefore we do everything we can to support this very vulnerable group of people at this time.”

The debate on upland farms follows on from Rory’s successful initiatives with Cumbria NFU, which persuaded the government to show flexibility to farmers, who have been struggling with the harsh weather. Two weeks ago, Rory convinced the government to allow farmers to use red diesel vehicles to clear snow, and to allow feed trucks to work extra hours to deliver feed to livestock. Last week he was part of a campaign to provide support for livestock disposal. In a second intervention in the parliamentary debate, Rory put on the record his thanks for the government’s support over the last few weeks and added:

“It was important not just to get derogations on livestock disposal, but also on red diesel, and on the working time directive, and I am extremely grateful for the flexibility Government has shown in this respect.”

Upland farmer from the Bewcastle area, Steve Pattinson, said:

“Rory has stayed on my farm before and seen firsthand how tough things have been over the last 24 months, and how much more pronounced problems are in the uplands area. As the local MP he has been a real champion of  local farming concerns, raising them at the highest levels, and the latest support he helped secure from Government is very welcome. There are still many traditional family farms really struggling at the moment though, and further support is still needed to meet the challenges upland farmers are facing.”

Print Friendly and PDF