British Farming in Deep Crisis
BRTISH FARMING IN DEEP CRISIS
Crippling costs, bad weather and disease have hit our countryside hard.
It has left the future of British food in jeopardy and farmers fighting for
survival. British Farming is in the midst of a very deep and ongoing crisis.
The main challenge farmers are facing is what is euphemistically called
“the Great British weather”. For 12 months it has been a foe not a
friend. After a drought in the first months in 2012, it went on to become
England’s wettest year on record, and the second wettest in the UK. Early
summer was very wet and windy. Mid and late summer was sunless,
resulting in the winter feed of silage being less in volume and up to 40%
lower in nutritional sugar value.
The rains came again for the heart of the growing season. Crops rotted in
the ground and could not be harvested. British wheat harvest was down
in capacity by 15% and what was saved dropped in quality from 90%
in 2011 to 10% in 2012. Some farmers and millers have had to import
expensive grain with the resulting increase in the price of bread.
The weather has affected the entire country. Some farmers have also had
the double blow of bovine TB and Schmallenberg diseases in sheep with
falling lamb prices. In March 2013, they faced the death of flocks of sheep
and lambs in the deep snow drifts and severe cold weather.
Retailers are not prepared to pay a fair price for such basic commodities
as milk. It is being produced at a loss. It is no wonder that more and more
dairy farmers are forced out of business or having to diversify if they have
not gone bankrupt in the meantime.
There are also pressures on prices in both home and imported markets
in feed and fuel. The droughts in Asia and the USA have decimated grain
crops while the price of oil has continued to rise. In terms of natural
resources, we are experiencing a global and not just a national crisis in
shortages and escalating costs.
We, as consumers, are not paying the full and just price for food and
drink. We must accept the reality that precious resources for a sustainable
life must be nurtured and shared with humanity. Otherwise, we will be
faced with the destructive and divisive forces of resource wars and mass
We must also accept that we have brought this ecological crisis on
ourselves by our greed and ‘thrashing’ of the planet. Intensive exploitation
of the land for oil and gas as well as intensive farming methods (e.g. use
of pesticides and herbicides) are destroying the balance in nature.
Human beings are responsible for emitting the vast majority of global
warming gases, which are accelerating climate change. Unseasonal and
unpredictable ‘dirty’ weather is now a fact of life with what people are now
calling the “new normal”. Britain will continue to experience extremes in
climate patterns with periods of cold, wet and windy weather, while other
parts of the world will have periods of heat and drought.
This Crisis is both a judgment and opportunity for us to change our way of
life or else we will have no future to pass on to other generations.
30th March 2013