Animal snow death burial rules eased in parts of Wales
Some farmers in Wales will be temporarily allowed to bury dead animals after the recent heavy snow.
The relaxation of strict EU rules will apply only to farms in certain areas where collectors of fallen stock cannot reach them.
Farmers will have to provide evidence of inaccessibility, says Welsh government Natural Resources and Food Minister Alun Davies.
Some affected farmers have said they are facing a "disaster".
End Quote Alun Davies AM Minister for Natural Resources and Food
We have faced such extreme weather and many farmers are struggling to safely dispose of their fallen stock ”
The relaxed laws come into force on Wednesday and will apply for seven days. After that, the procedure will be reviewed to see whether it should be closed or extended.
Farms in the worst affected areas of Wales of Conwy, Denbighshire, Wrexham, Gwynedd, Flintshire, Montgomeryshire and Radnorshire will be temporarily allowed to bury their sheep, lambs and calves.
North Wales was hit by very heavy snow for several days from 21 March, with large drifts that resulted in many areas preventing farmers reaching their sheep at the height of the lambing season.
There has been criticism of the minister for not taking action to help farmers over the Easter weekend.Struggling
Gareth Wyn Jones, who farms in the Conwy valley, said he and three neighbouring farmers near Llanfairfechan estimated they alone had lost nearly 300 sheep.
More than 25 wild ponies that are kept on the nearby mountains have also died.
End Quote Ed Bailey NFU Cymru
This weather's come at a particularly difficult time at the end of a dreadful year for sheep farmers, and this really is the icing on the cake where it's coming at peak lambing time”
Mr Davies said in a written statement that the Welsh government intended to do what it can to help farmers to deal with their lost stock "as quickly and safely as possible."
He said: "We have faced such extreme weather and many farmers are struggling to safely dispose of their fallen stock.
"We have received reports of collectors being unable to reach some farms. I have decided to temporarily apply this derogation in the worst affected areas whilst upholding the general principle of disposal off farm wherever possible".
Ed Bailey, president of the farmers' union NFU Cymru, said it was a "help, but it's only a slight help".
Mr Bailey told BBC Radio Wales he hoped the seven-day period could be extended in cases where dead sheep have still not been discovered after the snow.
"This weather's come at a particularly difficult time at the end of a dreadful year for sheep farmers, and this really is the icing on the cake where it's coming at peak lambing time," said Mr Bailey.'Devastating picture'
End Quote William Powell AM Welsh Liberal Democrats
It has been and remains a physically and emotionally draining time for many farming families across Wales”
He said some farmers faced the problem not just of lambing generally, but also the hardship of having to pay £20 to get rid of dead sheep.
William Powell, Welsh Liberal Democrat farming spokesman, said he shared the unions' "severe disappointment", that there was to be no programme of direct financial aid.
He said: "This March has seen the most severe conditions for 50 years, culminating in severe blizzards covering vast areas of mid and north Wales.
"Many farm buildings have given way under the sheer weight of snow, and large numbers of sheep and indeed ponies have been buried by snowdrifts. It has been and remains a physically and emotionally draining time for many farming families across Wales."
An NFU spokesman said the recent snow had the worst effect in north Wales, Shropshire, west Cumbria, and the Pennines, and left a "devastating picture".
He said there was no exact figure for the number of stock lost but there would probably be thousands of lambs and sheep in England and Wales.
The spokesman said the NFU was involved in ongoing discussions with Defra in England, and was "hopeful" of financial help for farmers who had lost livestock.