Farron: Farmers at sharp end of cost of living crisis need support

Writing in The House yesterday, Tim Farron said:

British farming communities are a crucial cog in the cost of living fighting machine. But farming families themselves are facing an even more acute cost of living emergency.

He said input costs are spiralling making crops and livestock more expensive to produce. In 12 months, the price of animal feed has shot up by 60 per cent. In some cases, fertiliser prices have quadrupled because production uses gas. Twelve months ago, a tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser cost £280 – it now costs £1,000.

The government needs to do everything it can to intervene. Capping fertiliser prices and reviving mothballed fertiliser plants would be a start… Farmers are weighing up whether it is even worth sewing their fields next Autumn. If it’s a bad harvest, they’ll lose even more than usual.

Often, the public see farmers as well-to-do, traditionally Conservative voters. Some are, but the majority are tenant farmers on awfully low incomes. The average wage of a Cumbrian farmer is £8,000 a year, for a lifestyle of work from dawn to dusk.

The transition from the old farm payments scheme to the new Environmental Land Management Scheme is being totally botched because the government is removing basic payments before the new scheme is ready. Given that, for livestock farms, basic payments account for 80 per cent of profitability, that is a catastrophic state of affairs.

Desperate farmers will either go broke – pack in farming altogether – or go backwards, farming more intensively and less sustainably to make ends meet. No minister could cope with their salary decreasing in progressively larger chunks if there was nothing to replace it. They shouldn’t expect farmers to do the same…

For anyone, financial hardship is a pressure on wellbeing and mental health. But rural poverty has an extra bite to it. Because you’re not just in poverty… you’re in poverty and you’re isolated. And the weight feels weightier if you’re a fifth-generation farmer with the pressure of the family farm on your shoulders. On average, one farmer a week commits suicide in the UK. That is a despairingly tragic statistic.

Farron said the government needs to listen to our rural army: delay the phase-out of basic payments, put people with no home ahead of those who’d like two, invest in agricultural education and treat those off-grid the same as those who are on-grid.

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  • > In some cases, fertiliser prices have quadrupled because production uses gas.
    The laugh is that one of the best uses for a farm-based wind turbine is to produce fertilizer feedstock. Yes the process isn’t as efficient as the mass-production process that relies on cheap gas, but …

    We saw similar with the production of food-grade carbon dioxide; the larger consumers relied on the big producer, smaller consumers got their supplies from their local biomass processor.

    The changes to our energy supplies greatly favour the construction of local facilities rather than megastructures distant from the populations they are intended to serve. Naturally, government won’t like this as it is much harder to tax people’s compost heaps.

  • The food, energy and fertiliser crises are going to go on for years. China, one of the largest Phosphate producers has criminalised the export of it because the Communist Party is terrified of a likely famine, which would have people on the streets and could overthrow the Communist party.

    You can see what potentially happens to countries where there is insufficient fertiliser on land that is not top grade, as Sri Lanka attempted a botched Organic national experiment. They were short of foreign currency to import it. Food costs have quadrupled and there were a lot of hungry people rioting and attacking property of the government.

    Peter Zeihan is a geopolitist and futurist has been mapping trends across the world. The era of globalisation is starting to go into reverse and many of the outcomes will be extremely unwelcome. Zeihan has written 4 books, does many Corporate events and can be seen on youtube.

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