Hard-pressed farming families are going without food so they can afford to feed their livestock, reveals a report.
Cashflow problems have forced hill farmers in the English uplands to take drastic action - cutting back on the weekly grocery bill and forgoing basics such as food - as well as slashing input costs, reveals a study undertaken on behalf of Oxfam.
"It is harder for upland farmers, who are highly dependent on livestock, to make a living out of agriculture," said the report. "Poverty is a severe and stifling condition that is becoming more intense," it adds.
The situation is so serious that a vulnerability index should be drawn up to categorise and prioritise support to upland livestock producers, said report co-author Jessica Sellick, of economic regeneration experts Rose Regeneration.
"We need to think about the sort of support we are offering to farmers," Dr Sellick told Farmers Weekly. "A vulnerability index would help identify those farmers most in need of support and those most reliant on off-farm income."
Producers already battling rising input costs face an additional struggle to secure adequate forage supplies this winter. The wet summer, which curtailed grass growth, has pushed up prices and left many producers needing to buy in additional feed.
The study, Challenges Facing Farmers, will be discussed at a London meeting on Friday (12 October). The meeting will be attended by Stuart Burgess, the government's rural advocate. DEFRA officials have also been invited.
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