Farm minister David Heath has unveiled a £250,000 package to help snow-hit farmers in England meet the cost of removing animal carcasses.

DEFRA said the money was the latest move in a programme of support to help farmers affected by snow storms during the coldest March for 51 years.

The department has already permitted farmers to bury or burn livestock onsite if snow makes it difficult to get them to a collection vehicle.

Mr Heath said: “As I saw on my recent visit to Cumbria, the loss of sheep in recent snow has taken a terrible emotional and financial toll on farmers.

“We have been working with the National Fallen Stock Company to find the fairest way to help them meet the cost of removing their stock.

“I’m pleased to be able to announce this support today and call upon the public to lend their own support to our farmers by choosing British lamb.”

NFU deputy president Meurig Raymond described the package as a very welcome move that would come as a huge relief to farming families struggling with the worst spring snow in living memory.

He said: “The NFU will now continue to work very closely with the government on the detail of exactly how this money will be distributed.”

DEFRA has already worked with the National Fallen Stock Company (NFSCo) to encourage collectors to offer discounted rates for removing more than ten sheep at a time.

Farmers will be reimbursed in line with this discounted rate for the sheep they have paid to remove, said the department.

DEFRA will now work with the NFU and other farming representatives to finalise the scheme.

England had been the only country of the four home nations where the government had refused to contribute to the cost of cleaning up carcasses on farms across the UK.

The Scottish government has set aside £500,000 to help its farmers.

In Northern Ireland, where almost 18,000 animals perished, the Department of Agriculture has set up a hardship fund and agreed to waive carcass collection fees.

In Wales, a barrage of criticism that farmers were being denied similar cash aid prompted the Welsh government to announce a £500,000 pot of cash to be shared between rural charities.

Until now, though, DEFRA had refused to adopt a similar policy for England.

The NFU had argued that it was unfair to expect farmers facing big losses to pay for carcass disposal on such an unprecedented scale.

NFSCo has sought to reduce farmers’ costs by arranging bulk collections and deliveries of carcasses to knackers’ yards.

But NFSCo chairman Michael Seals had warned that using its reserves to fund collections for free would have bankrupted the not-for-profit company.

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