A DOSSIER of evidence detailing the ‘severe hardship’ faced by Cumbrian farmers has been compiled by Penrith and the Border MP Rory Stewart.

During a series of meetings with farmers across his constituency, Mr Stewart said he had learned of widespread concern about issues such as the ‘significant’ rise in livestock diseases and the lack of winter feed caused by 18 months of bad weather.

The MP said the problems had left many farmers ‘facing severe hardship’ over the coming months’.

During the meetings, Mr Stewart asked farmers to help him put together a dossier of evidence that he was ‘sharing’ with the National Farmers’ Union to try to identify sources of financial support.

At the most recent gathering with farmers from the Penrith farmers’ club 1A1, the MP addressed concerns over Bovine TB and how to limit outbreaks.

He suggested introducing post-movement testing on all livestock bought in a zone which currently has one or two year testing in place and this was met with a largely positive reception.

Mr Stewart said: “The consequences of endemic bovine TB would be catastrophic in Cumbria in a way they have not been in other parts of the UK.

“Agriculture represents 23 per cent of our local economy. Based on talks I have had so far with local farmers, introducing post-movement testing as a pilot scheme could be an effective way of preventing the spread of this disease.

“It is important there is a real consensus among Cumbrian farmers for such a proposal before taking it any further, so I want farmers to contact my office to relate their concerns and insights.”

Mr Stewart also told the 1A1 Club: "The value of British farms cannot simply be measured in terms of food security – as important as that is.

“Farms are valuable in and of themselves and form part of the fabric of British culture, heritage and history. Much more still needs to be done to ensure a fair price for farmers' work."