Desperate farmers are reportedly being pushed to the financial brink and some are even at 'risk of suicide' - due to late payments, weather woes and BREXIT.

Many farmers are stills struggling from the impact of the Beast from the East snow storms last year and the summer drought.

Distressed farmers have made dozens of calls to crisis networks and some have been placed on "suicide watch", a leading farm official said.

National Farmers' Union (NFU) Cumbrian council delegate Alistair Mackintosh said: "I've had many worrying telephone calls just in the last two or three weeks from farmers who want to give up, and who are on suicide watch.

"But what I fear most is those who do not telephone you."

The sheep farmer said he is "finding it very hard" dealing with the cries for help.

He added: "When you're aware of the suicide rate for UK farmers and their exceptional difficulties, there is every reason to fear we will see more such acts."

The leading cause of death for people aged between 20 and 34 is suicide.

According to the Office for National Statistics, approximately more than one agricultural worker a week in the UK dies by suicide.

Adam Day, managing director of Penrith-based The Farmer Network, said loneliness and isolation in the farming community was a "ticking time bomb" that must be tackled.

He said: "These are unprecedented times. The farming community is facing a perfect storm, and greater emotional support is going to be needed".

Without a Brexit deal, sheep producers have no idea whether they will be able to export this season's lambs beyond March 29.

Mr Day added: "Whichever way Brexit goes, farmers are facing a £25-£30 a head loss on this year's lambs.

"It is going to be absolutely dire.

"We already have phone calls from farmers saying 'things are not very good and we don't know which way to turn'.

"We need to get support in at a much earlier stage than that desperate end of the road."

Farming Minister George Eustice yesterday quit the cabinet over Brexit.

Recently, the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) came under fire after suggesting that farmers waiting for delayed support payments should turn to charity for help.

Mr Day said: "This was greeted with anger and indignation at what was seen as the lack of respect towards the farming community. There is a feeling that farmers are not well thought of.

"It is like poking someone in the eye and then referring them to an eye doctor as an act of kindness."

The human cost of the cash crisis engulfing agriculture was highlighted by Georgina Lamb of the farming charity, Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute (RABI) as she revealed their teams were dealing with increasing numbers of cases from Cumbria.

Ms Lamb said livestock farmers, in particular, were strapped for cash - coping with winter feed bills and the additional cost of housing livestock.

The charity, which helps farming families in need, saw a 47 per cent rise in the amount of money it paid out last year.

It issued grants worth £2.22m to 1,248 farmers, farm workers and their dependants during 2018.

In Cumbria alone it gave out £74,919 in grants to 44 beneficiaries, with almost half of those being working farmers. The numbers were more than triple those helped in neighbouring Northumberland and County Durham.

Georgina said: "Our job is to nip things in the bud before it gets catastrophic. We try to get to people before they contemplate suicide, but with the uncertainty over Brexit we really do fear for the mental state of some of our farmers.

"We do not dole out grants for luxury items.

"We are talking about farmers who do not have enough money to put diesel in their tractors, or food on the table, or pay household bills.

"We are talking about helping to pay for school uniforms. Farmers will put their livestock first without a shadow of a doubt."