Farm Ireland

Tuesday 19 March 2019

It's like we've been forgotten, says Border farmer devastated by flooded fields

David Butler lost a significant proportion of his barley harvest because of saturated fields. Image: Belfast Telegraph
David Butler lost a significant proportion of his barley harvest because of saturated fields. Image: Belfast Telegraph

Adrian Rutherford

A farmer whose land was devastated by flooding has told how the trauma has impacted on his health.

David Butler from Eglinton in Co Derry is one of many farmers in Northern Ireland who have been severely affected by bad weather.

He has been unable to tend his fields for months, and fears the problems could last into the spring.

A spell of unprecedented and prolonged rain in recent months - plus heavy snowfall - has led to serious problems with saturated land.

The north west was particularly badly hit by flash-flooding last August.

Around 63pc of the area's average rainfall for that month fell within a nine-hour period, leaving 120 people in need of rescue and damaging 510 properties.

Parts of Northern Ireland also saw heavy snowfall in December and last month, adding to farmers' woes.

Mr Butler described the consequences the bad weather has had on his arable business, saying it has affected his health.

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"The weather has had a devastating impact on my crops," he said.

"Not only have I been unable to plough the last few months, but the state of the land means I may not be able to prepare for spring either. This has left me with environmental problems to deal with and a financial burden, as well as the strain it is causing on my health. It is so disheartening.

"We feel like we've been forgotten about here and engaging with the local agencies to resolve the issues has been difficult." Rural Support NI, a charity formed in 2002 to help farmers and rural families, has been working with many of those affected.

Its chief executive Jude McCann said that it had seen a surge in calls.

"Working in the agricultural sector is a difficult job, even without the additional stress and toll that severe weather conditions have on farming," he explained.

"The impact of such conditions cannot be underestimated - farmers have lost crops, missed production deadlines and their land, buildings, laneways and, in some cases, machinery has been destroyed and livestock lost.

"Farmers are really feeling the strain and at Rural Support we have seen an increase in the number of calls to our helpline since August."

Mr McCann called on politicians to react to what he describes as a crisis for some rural communities.

"Our rural communities need leadership and a functioning Executive that can make decisions and release funds that will help them get back on their feet following these trying times," he said.

Mr McCann added: "While it has been an extremely difficult few months for these communities, I am positive that with the right direction and additional support, rural areas across Northern Ireland can get back on track."

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Belfast Telegraph