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Farmers fear for their future

  • by JW

“How hard it is making money in farming.”


A young farmer and PhD candidate writes in the latest Conversation about how difficult it is for farmers – and about how he fears for the future:

You either love him or hate him, but Jeremy Clarkson’s documentary series about trying to get to grips with sheep rearing, tractor driving and running a farm shop at Diddly Squat Farm has certainly found an audience. As someone who lives and works on the family farm and experiences the harsh realities in the show, I have found it enjoyable and relatable. Clarkson’s farming efforts were rewarded with a mere £142 in his first year. He did break the bank with a Lamborghini tractor and his crop yield was hit by unusually severe weather, but it gives a sense of how hard it is making money in farming.

Our 250-acre upland farm in west Yorkshire is an average size for this part of England. In meadows and rough grazing land, we run around 60 head of suckler beef cattle and about 100 breeding ewes. The farm is run by my 68-year-old father, my younger brother and myself. They do the bulk of the work with the animals and I oversee administrative duties while studying for a PhD in rural entrepreneurship, focusing on the challenges farmers in the beef and sheep sector face and the types of business strategies they are using to respond. At the farm we have been busy as always, making hay when the sun shines, shearing the sheep, calving and spending considerable amounts of time form-filling and complying with government red tape. We have been incredibly lucky to isolate ourselves in the stunning countryside during the COVID lockdowns. But like many farmers, we’re very worried about how Brexit is affecting our industry…

I’m a sheep and cattle farmer in England, and Brexit has left farmers in fear for their futures

The article refers to a government scheme to get older farmers to retire – but that’s in order to release land for the next generation of farmers:

Why we want older farmers to hang up their wellies – BBC News

Prince Charles has also been worrying about the future of farming, but recently praised Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy to improve the nation’s food system from “field to fork”:

Prince Charles’ warning over survival of small farms – BBC News

And there is help available to Devon farmers – even if it’s just a series of workshops on how “to navigate the changes during the Agricultural Transition”:

Devon secures Future Farming Resilience Fund support | Exmouth Journal

Farmers urged not to miss out as Future Farming Resilience Fund prepares to open – Devon Live

Still, article after article in the farming press show real apprehension for what’s to come:

‘A tiger is chasing us’: British farmers fear for their future

‘A perfect storm’: UK beet growers fear Brexit threatens their future | Brexit | The Guardian

One in three farmers unprepared for BPS withdrawal – Farmers Weekly