Churches are being urged to stand by to offer support to farming families, warning that the latest Foot and Mouth outbreak with has triggered the reimposition of an EU export ban, could spell disaster for the farming community.
A new case of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in Surrey, the government has said.
Chief vet Dr Debby Reynolds confirmed the outbreak near Milton Park Farm, near Egham. A 10km control zone has been set up around the site.
Cattle and pigs on an adjacent farm are also being slaughtered "on suspicion" of infection, Defra said later.
The European Union has reimposed a ban on UK meat and livestock exports, and a national movement ban is in place.
Although Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the outbreak is under control, churches around the country are standing by to offer support, particularly in light of the national movement ban and ban on exports.
The Rural Officer for the Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, The Revd. Canon Leslie Morley, has written to parish priests and lay leaders urging them to closely monitor the impact of new restrictions on livestock movement, and to get in touch with farmers locally to find out what problems they face.
Canon Morley says that the latest news is disastrous. He writes, “As you will have heard a new case of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed on a farm just miles from the one at the centre of last month's outbreak in Surrey. This is a disastrous development, coming as it does in the very week that restrictions on Auction Mart sales had been lifted, and just as the livestock markets were beginning to get back into action.”
The timing of the new outbreak could not have been worse, says Canon Morley. “Further restrictions as a result of the new outbreak will lock down the markets for the foreseeable future and cause livestock farmers huge financial losses in sales and in extra feed. If movement restrictions are prolonged further problems will emerge not least the movement of tups (rams) to breeding flocks for next years lambs”
In 2001 churches were at the forefront of efforts to help farmers whose livelihoods were threatened or destroyed by the Foot and Mouth outbreak.
Canon Morley is Chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Rural Church Support Network, formed at the time to provide help and resources to rural churches and church leaders. He is also Chaplain to the Yorkshire group of the Farm Crisis Network which provides personal and practical support to farmers in difficulties.
Canon Morley says it is important that, once again, local churches rally round to help. “As harvest approaches please continue to monitor the progress of this latest outbreak, speak to farmers locally to hear the particular problems they face, and pray for morale in the farming community after the blows of the floods, high feed prices, and the impact of these FMD outbreaks.”