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EDITIONS
 Monday, 6 January, 2003, 16:45 GMT
Charles launches farmers' helpline
Prince Charles
Prince Charles wants more support for Britain's farmers
Prince Charles has made a passionate plea for help to ensure the future of family-run farms, as he launched a confidential helpline for beleaguered farmers.

The Prince of Wales initiated the new phone line at a reception on Monday, held at his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove House.

The meeting also relaunched the farming support group, Gloucestershire Farming Friends (GFF).

The charity was established 12 years ago and offers help and support to the county's farming and rural communities.

Rural communities

Since its inception, it has helped more than 250 families face up to the problems associated with foot-and-mouth disease as well as financial and stress-related problems.

From Monday, farmers seeking its free advice, support or someone to talk to can call the newly-centralised telephone helpline on 01452 760127.

The relaunch was attended by around 100 people who live and work within the region's farming and rural communities.

They included representatives from the National Farmers' Union and the Tenant Farmers' Association.

In his speech, Prince Charles called for a return of school farms in a bid to educate youngsters in agriculture, which in turn would boost family farms and recreate the supportive agricultural infrastructure.

There are so many people who do not get out and have a very solitary life

Robert Warren
"The thing that worries me most is that we will end up losing that vital element in this country's life, which is the family farm," he said.

"A farmer's life has become such a lonely one and there is no longer people around to talk to like there used to be - no neighbours to talk over troubles and worries which you need or you go stark raving mad.

Better service

"The re-launch of GFF is so people become more aware of the marvellous work they do and the new number will make the service better and quicker."

Robert Warren, dairy farmer and chairman of Gloucestershire and Worcestershire Milk Forum, praised the phone line.

"It would be very easy to get depressed. I have a lot of contact with farmers on a business basis and there are so many people who do not get out and have a very solitary life."


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