Church pledges to help farmers hit by livestock virus and heavy rains

Colin Fletcher outside a rural church during the Cotswold Churches Festival.

Colin Fletcher outside a rural church during the Cotswold Churches Festival.

The Diocese of Oxford has pledged its support afresh to the farmers who have been hit by heavy rainfall and a virus that causes deformities in livestock.

The Bishop of Dorchester, the Rt Revd Colin Fletcher, has reaffirmed this after 2012 became the second wettest year on record and heavy rain and flooding continued throughout early 2013. In a double whammy for farmers the Schmallenberg virus, which causes deformities in unborn lambs and calves, made a return in January.

Bishop Colin, who meets farmers throughout the year in the course of his work, said: “Farmers are under severe pressure at the moment. In 2007 the Diocese pledged its support for the farming community by passing a resolution encouraging churches to serve local food at church events and to support the farming community through the work of local churches.”

He said that the diocese had a rural team of farmers and church people who work together to provide advice to the diocese on how churches can help. The Diocese has also launched a Food Matters campaign, to help congregations think about food, where it is sourced, how it is sourced and the global implications of food production and distribution on the environment.

Bishop Colin said: “The Food Matters project is linked to the four agricultural church festivals; Plough Sunday, Rogation, Lammas and Harvest, and so roots the project in our support for the farming community and more widely.”

The Revd Canon Glyn Evans, the Diocesan Rural Officer and regional director of the Farm Crisis Network said: “The effects of the wet weather and animal diseases like Schmallenberg have financial implications and create stress and anxiety for farmers who are affected.”

Farmers can contact their local churches if they need to talk about their fears and anxieties or they can call the Farming Helpline on 0845 367 9990.

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