The importance of maintaining the life line for farmers isolated by foot and mouth disease provided by the telephone has been put by the NFU, which has secured assurances from British Telecom.

The NFU wrote to BT asking for special consideration for farming customers struggling financially as a result of the Foot and Mouth outbreak.

The telecommunications network has agreed "to take a sympathetic view to requests for a restructuring of a customer's payment pattern until the crisis has eased".

Farmers having difficulty meeting their 'phone bill under their present arrangements are asked to contact BT immediately to discuss the issue. They should use the contact number at the top of their bill.

NFU President Ben Gill said: "The telephone is probably the most important piece of equipment on the farm and at times such as these the link it provides with the outside world is extremely important.

"We are pleased that BT has recognised this and will be working with farmers to offer them some assurance that should they need to they will be able to use the 'phone to get the relevant help they need.

"I hope that the other utilities that the NFU has approached with calls for flexibility will demonstrate the same level of understanding."

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Updated: October 2005.