23 October 1998
MAFF warns staff over suicidal farmers

THE Ministry of Agriculture has issued a farm suicide warning to all staff of its offices.

Farmers have been identified as one of the high-risk categories. Some are suggesting their shotguns should be removed as a precaution in the face of the worst slump in farm incomes since the 1930s.

An internal memorandum was circulated yesterday urging officials to follow the guidelines and not to act as “stress counsellors”.

The notice says: “Staff are not expected to become, or act as, stress counsellors when dealing with distressed farmers.”

It added: “If suicidal farmers ring up it is difficult for us to calm them down. But we can refer them to trained counsellors.”

Concern is mounting that a proposed package of aid measures being worked on by Nick Brown, minister of agriculture, could be delayed.

No progress was made at European Union (EU) farm ministers talks in Luxembourg this week on measures that require EU backing. The next meeting does not take place until next month.

Independent campaigners who launched the Great Britain Beef Campaign six months ago after the suicide of a beef farmer friend will display a 27,000-name petition against the EUs global export ban on British beef at the Tower of London today (Friday).