Charity warns of farm crisis as rain takes a toll

Water logged fields in Suffolk
Water logged fields in Suffolk
Have your say

Farmers in trouble after one of the worst years farming years in a century are being urged to seek help.

Lavenham based Keith Davis, eastern regional director for the Farm Crisis Network, said: “I’m expecting a flurry of approaches to us in the next three or four months. That’s normally when farmers realise the winter is a long one and they’re not going to make it through.

“We want to increase awareness among farmers that people like us are here to give any farmer emotional or more practical support.”

Mr Davis said even in the East, which has not been hit as hard as some areas, farmers had to bring livestock off soaked fields early, which meant they began feeding winter feed early. But in turn, the weather created a shortage of such forage.

He added: “For pig producers locally they’re finding grain is more expensive, but the cereal farmers haven’t been having it all their own way, either.”

Farmers are hit hard by the stress of business going wrong. Mr Davis said: “One of the problems is isolation. A lot of farmers have small farms doing the work themselves or with family.

“They don’t feel they want to share problems with their family and they don’t see anybody else from one week to the next.”

Farm Crisis Network is one of the charities to benefit from a fund set up last month by Prince Charles’ Prince’s Countryside Fund, which last week received a £150,000 donation from the insurance company NFU Mutual’s Charitable Trust, bringing the total up to £450,000.

But the NFU says this year’s weather has created a ‘£1.3 billion black hole’ in agriculture.

Its Suffolk-based national water resources specialist Paul Hammett said: “We spent the first four months of 2012 in the most serious drought for 30 years then spent the rest of the year dealing with the highest rainfall for the best part of 100 years.

“Farmers live with the risk of unstable weather, but the past 12 months have been extreme.”

He said farmers had trouble harvesting late crops and cannot get back onto the fields to sow the next crop.

“There’s still time to drill crops in the spring, but that creates more problems,” he said. Farmers will then need to plant different varieties and those may be in short supply.

The Farm Crisis Network’s helpline phone number is: 0845 3679990