Thursday, 20 December 2012

Weather-induced Crisis for Farmers

Some farmers are facing severe problems this winter following the very poor weather we've had across the UK this year. I quote from a recent article by Andy Rylands.

'Farm Crisis Network has confirmed that casework is already double that normally experienced at this time of year. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has paid out two-and-a-half times as much money in emergency grants to two-thirds more farmers than in the same period last year.'

The Prince of Wales' Countryside Fund has announced it will donate £150,000, the total amount available in its emergency fund, to help farmers who are struggling through the winter months as a result of this year's extreme weather. The Met. Office has confirmed that the summer of 2012 has been the wettest in the UK since records began. A drought across much of England during the spring was followed by this record-breaking wet weather; this has led to an exceptionally poor harvest for some farmers resulting, in turn, in higher costs for food to feed livestock and higher prices for the seed to grow next season's crops. In addition, the wet autumn has meant that it is difficult to prepare the ground for next year's crops. Around us, here in Ripon, we have witnessed some of this year's crops go to waste as they simply could not be harvested due to the impossibility of getting heavy machinery onto water-logged land. In addition to problems caused by inclement weather for growing crops and producing food, there have been health issues for livestock with very high incidences of liver fluke affecting cattle and sheep.

At a recent emergency meeting called by the Prince of Wales with the leaders of UK rural charities (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Farm Crisis Network, the Addington Fund in England and Wales and RSABI in Scotland), it was agreed that £150,000 would be donated from the Prince's Fund to help farmers in crisis across the UK. The Duke of Westminster announced that he would personally match the funding. The Prince of Wales said,

'I have been growing increasingly concerned about the many difficulties which farmers from all sectors are facing - and are likely to face - this winter and so I thought it was important for us to come together, hear what we each have to report, and then I want to see what I can do to help through my Prince's Countryside Fund.'

The charities will use the money to boost the work they ordinarily do. Some supply food vouchers while volunteers have stared to carry Foodbank boxes in their cars to give immediate help when they visit farms. All the farming charities' helplines have received an increased number of calls, including calls from individuals contemplating suicide. This will be the first time that the Prince's Countryside Fund has had to use all its emergency funding and this is undoubtedly a reflection of just how difficult a time farmers are having. The worst impact is yet to come and will be felt from January/February onwards.

I wanted to bring this situation to churches' attention. As we all focus on the festivities of Christmas, please be aware and on the look out for families and individuals who are struggling, please support food banks and the various farming charities, and please pray for farmers everywhere. Be on the look out for the fact that you stop seeing someone around for a day or two. Notice when you visit someone whose house is exceptionally cold.  Once again, my thanks to Andy for much of this information.

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