Economic pressures have been heavy on the majority of the population since 2008. As the uncertainty of the countries finances unfolds, austerity measure are taking hold, effecting vital public services and charities implemented by the current Tory led coalition government. Once again the farming community have fallen into the newspapers. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution is raising serious concerns about the welfare of farming families in Britain this year, comparing the level of the current crisis to the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001.
A recent report published by the charity Oxfam revealed that hill farmers work on average 80 hours a week, over double that of the average full time worker. The report also revealed that many farming families find themselves living below the poverty line here in the UK. The report claims that upland farmers earn between £12,600 and £8,000 a year, while the official income figure for a single working adult is £19,820 per year, this is to cover their needs living in a village. Both Oxfam and the RABI have also reported that farmers are turning to feeding their livestock before feeding themselves and heating their homes. It's a striking but at the same time unsurprising factor however the welfare levels of farmers in a 'wealthy' country such as the UK are shocking and unnecessary.
The farming community also find themselves in an ongoing battle with the supermarkets and dairy owners over the price of milk as the farmers report that they are forced to produce milk at a loss. Just at the weekend we witnessed a 300 strong blockade of farmers standing against the multinational dairy product company Muller in regards to this very problem. This year has also brought adverse and unpredictable weather conditions with a particularly wet summer causing a poor harvest for many crops including pumpkins, causing additional stress. The RABI has reported a 50% increase in calls to its helpline this year and it is now dealing with 2 emergency calls a day. I feel it's a very concerning pattern that is emerging amongst people seeking help for a number of reasons in recent times.
The agricultural industry that shaped and fed the British Isle for centuries is in continued decline due to a whole host of reasons including economic and climate related struggles as well as the rise of factory farms, nationally and globally. Little help and support from the government leaves hardworking farmers struggling to support themselves and their families sinking below the poverty line. In 2010 1 in 4 farmers found themselves stranded in this position. The issues around farming in the 21st century appear to be escalating and debates on the matter and potential solutions and support are clearly well overdue.
Contrary to popular belief the farming lifestyle isn't all range rovers and stately homes. It's long hard days work, balancing bills and tending to livestock and crops against the odds of climate and disease. Howard Scorer a retired farm trader told the BBC It's so embarrassing looking for help.' explaining that 'because you've never looked for help, you don't know where to look'. So how do we support farmers is Britain? It's a very tough question and while many of the population face economic hardship and the supermarkets can get away with paying farmers less than, often the bare minimum I don't see what direct action we can take to help. The ball is in the governments court and I believe it's their duty to ensure this pandemic of problems is cured and quickly.
I would urge you to comment with your views and how you think this problem should be tackled.