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EDITIONS
Friday, 18 January, 2002, 07:13 GMT
Farmers unsure of new roles
Disinfecting boots
Funding is available for farms hit by foot-and-mouth
Policies and plans to help Northumberland recover from the foot-and-mouth crisis must be of real use to the rural areas, warned farmers on the penultimate day of the county's own inquiry into the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

As the hearing attempts to form a recovery plan for the county, a number of official bodies including local councils, the Northumbria tourist board, and One North East have been putting their views forward.

The inquiry at the county council in Morpeth has heard that millions of pounds of European funding is available to create jobs in a variety of environmental programmes.

But the panel was told that farmers were not keen to change their roles.

Professor Michael Dower
Michael Dower: Farmers' wishes must be heard
It has been suggested that some could expand their roles as food producers to take on more work with the environment, but many want things to go back to the way they were before the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

Many do not want to leave the farming industry in spite of its recent difficulties.

In a lengthy discussion on funding, Frances Rowe from the government's Rural Task Force said: "European funding will be very important for the county.

"There'll be funding streams working their way through the Single Regeneration Budget and the Rural Development Programme, although those are going to disappear over the next couple of years."

Advice shops

The inquiry heard that farmers and small businesses have difficulty with long complicated forms and restrictions on what grants can be used for.

It was suggested that a one-stop shop for funding advice could be set up in the Northumberland business link centres.

It also emerged there was a case for extra funding for the badly hit Allendale Blue Box, Hadrian's Wall and Widdrington areas.

The inquiry chairman, Professor Michael Dower, said: "I sense from this morning's discussion, as well as from the evidence we've been receiving, that farmers face a great deal of uncertainty.

"Before we start thinking of new ways to help farmers we must be clear in which direction they want to go, and which direction we want them to go in."

The inquiry reaches its final day on Friday.



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15 Jan 02 | UK Politics
14 Jan 02 | England
11 Jan 02 | UK Politics
28 Dec 01 | Review of 2001
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