Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, has announced a support package, worth £12.5million, for farmers affected by the recent Foot and Mouth outbreak and subsequent movement restrictions.

The package will include a one-off payments to hill farmers totalling £8.5million and a contribution of up to £1m to the Arthur Rank Centre for disbursement to farming charities.

Mr Benn said in a statement: ‘This outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease has been a tremendous blow to farming, especially as it has happened at the time of year when the majority of livestock farmers need to move their animals to generate income. The impact of this outbreak on the farming community has been significant and we have listened to the views of the industry in taking these and other steps to alleviate the economic and welfare pressures they face.’

David Fursdon, president of the Country, Land and Business Association (CLA), welcomed this package: ‘At last the CLA’s messages about the impact the animal disease outbreaks have had on the rural economy have been heard and the Government has signalled its obligation to do something to help by offering this aid.’

However, Mr Fursdon also went on to say, ‘Defra have clearly listened to the CLA and others in the industry and are feeling some responsibility for this sorry mess. When you consider the combined impact of these disease outbreaks it is clear this financial package is but a drop in the ocean and will only meet a small fraction of the economic damage to businesses, especially for those indirectly affected ? The ban on exports alone resulted in the loss of at least £2 million per day, which shows the true cost of these outbreaks.’