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Farmers under increasing pressure from the continuing foot and mouth crisis are being urged not to struggle on alone but to make use of the support being offered by counsellors and industry help groups.

In an appeal to farmers in the latest edition of NFU membership magazine, Business, which arrives with farmers today, NFU President Ben Gill encouraged farmers to pick up the 'phone and talk their problems through.

He said: "It is all too easy for farmers to feel shut off from the world with their problems and to sink deeper into depression and debt. But there is an army of people out there ready to help.

"No one is in any doubt about the pressure this disease is placing on farmers and their families and the generosity of the public demonstrates this."

The public has given more than £25,000 to the NFU's Supporting Farmers in Crisis fund in the fortnight since it was launched with a £2m pledge from the Institute of Grocery Distribution.

The money is being channelled through the fund to charities such as The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), the Rural Stress Information Network, and other initiatives to help the industry regain its feet.

Ben Gill said: "We have had donations from pensioners, big business, churches, schools and from individuals and organisations as well as from overseas. The response has been overwhelming.

"We are sending out a postbag full of letters of thanks every day."

Farmers wanting more information about how they might receive financial help are urged to call the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) on 01865 727888. RABI offers help to farming families with domestic bills and some other expenditure resulting from the foot and mouth crisis. The hotline is manned 24 hours a day by staff.

Other helpful contact numbers include:
* The Rural Stress Information Network - 024 7641 2916.
* The Farm Crisis Network - 07002 326 326.
* The Samaritans national helpline - 08457 90 90 90.
* The ARC Addington Fund offers help to those whose livelihood depends
on farming, such as contractors or hauliers - 02476 858370.

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