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James Stephen: Great news for farmers as Royal Bath & West Society's flood fund pays out £300,000

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: August 27, 2014

Cattle on James Winslade's West Yeo Farm on the Somerset Levels. A recovery fund set up by the Royal Bath & West Society has paid out more than £300,000 to farmers hit by the atrocious conditions

Cattle on James Winslade's West Yeo Farm on the Somerset Levels. A recovery fund set up by the Royal Bath & West Society has paid out more than £300,000 to farmers hit by the atrocious conditions

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Great news. The Royal Bath and West of England Society have announced that it has helped 47 farmers by paying out more than £300,000 from the Somerset Farm Recovery Fund.

The recovery fund was launched earlier this year following an initial generous donation by a local farming family disturbed by the difficulties being suffered by some farmers following the devastating floods.

The society thanked everyone who has contributed, from this first donation, to the public and those who generously donated items for an online auction.

In particular, they also thanked the Somerset Community Foundation and its chief executive Justin Sargent for all their help with the fund.

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John Alvis, chairman of the Somerset Farm Recovery Fund, said: "The generosity of the general public, together with the match funding from the Somerset Community Foundation, has provided much-needed financial support for those struggling to put their lives and businesses back on an even keel.

"No-one should be in any doubt as to the difference this fund has made."

Applications for grant aid were invited from farmers whose livelihoods had been affected by the floods and where they had suffered a loss of production.

So it is welcome news that the money which was collected has been so speedily and effectively distributed.

As living proof of the effectiveness of the scheme, one recipient wrote: "We are overwhelmed by the generosity of people and the support we have been given. The arrival of the cheque has saved our business and for that we are most earnestly grateful."

However, although the worst may be over, some farmers will still suffer shortages of fodder over the coming winter, while in the long term, efforts are still being made to tackle the needs of the levels and moors for the benefit of future generations.

Another initiative called the Somerset Levels Relief Fund is approaching various organisations and charitable trusts to secure money for a 20-year action plan drawn up by Somerset County Council in conjunction with other stakeholders and interested parties.

Edwin White, chairman of the Royal Bath and West of England Society's agricultural policy group, said: "The society has not taken its eye off the ball in securing funding for the long-term future of the levels.

"In the meantime, through the kindness and generosity of so many individuals and organisations, in just over four months we have been able to collect and distribute a large amount of money to where it was needed."

The society should be proud of the pivotal role they have played and continue to play in support of our local farming communities on the Somerset Levels.

James Stephen is partner in charge of Carter Jonas' South West rural team

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