The Farming Community Network (FCN) has seen calls to its helpline more than double after financial problems forced more farmers to ask for help.

Volunteers at the charity, which provides support to farmers with problems in business or at home, took roughly 760 calls in the first half of 2013, compared with 725 calls in the whole of 2012.

More of the cases the FCN dealt with in 2013 were prompted by calls from the farmers themselves rather than a case referral from an individual. In the first six months of 2013, 62% of cases started with a call to the helpline compared with just 44% in 2012.

In 2012, a range of problems saw farmers picking up the phone to the helpline. The main issues were financial difficulties, animal health and welfare, DEFRA/RPA issues, ill health, depression, family problems, retirement and succession issues.

Network spokesman Peter Riley said many of the issues farmers were having in 2013 stemmed from financial problems as a result of the poor weather last year and in the first half of this year.

“The majority of the calls this year have started with financial problems which have gone on to become social and family problems,” he said.

“Financial difficulty causes a huge strain on family and other relationships.”

Many of the calls in the North and North West were related to snowstorms in March, which left farmers physically and emotionally exhausted after trying to rescue livestock, and financially crippled by the cost of feed.

This year’s cases, involving 1,659 people so far, have also been more complex and taken much longer to deal with.

“We are seeing that our volunteers are having to spend more time on each case – both on the telephone and visiting farms for face-to-face chats,” said Mr Riley.

“Volunteers report that farmers and farming families are revealing more complex problems, which often stem from financial problems.”

FCN has around 300 volunteers spread across the country. Farmers or their families in need of support are urged to contact the helpline on 0845 367 9990.

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