Farmers will quiz minister

A GOVERNMENT minister will visit Northumberland next week to discuss farming issues after a difficult start to the year.

Guy Opperman requested an emergency meeting with Owen Paterson, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, so he can hear first-hand the problems facing food producers and growers in the county.

Its uplands have struggled with the long winter, as there has been plenty of snow and a lack of grass. The meeting will take place in Ogle, near Belsay.

The MP for Hexham, whose constituency includes Ponteland and Stannington, said: “Farming is never easy, but this spring has thrown some really tough challenges at local farmers, especially those in the uplands.

“Hill sheep in particular are very depleted after months of wet weather and then three months of snow and cold.

“I have asked Owen to come and meet with 30 or so local farmers and representatives from our rural communities to hear first-hand how things are for the farming community here in Northumberland.

“Defra is a big department and the Secretary of State has a huge caseload, so it is great news he has been able to accept my invitation to meet specifically with local farmers.

“We will hopefully have a chance to voice a range of concerns, from the problems in the uplands this spring to the lack of broadband, the on-going concerns of dairy farmers and concerns regarding potential changes to the CAP.”

Struggling farmers across the country are receiving support from the public as the National Farmers’ Union recently said it has been inundated with requests from people who have heard or read about their plight. They have been advised to make a donation to a farming charity.