12 April 2002

Cumbrians stay despite crisis effect

A NEW study suggests most farmers in Cumbria intend to stay in the industry despite the devastating effects of last years foot-and-mouth epidemic.

Researchers from Newcastle Universitys Centre for Rural Economy interviewed 67 farmers in the area to see how they had been affected by the crisis.

Out of these, only one said he would definitely give up farming. Three were unsure, but the rest said they would stay despite suffering severe financial hardship and emotional distress.

The report, published a year after the F&M outbreak reached its height, was commissioned by the Northern Fells Rural Project.

Cumbria was the county worst affected by the disease which cost the region an estimated £6000m in lost revenues and cleared a quarter of its farms of stock.

Kept stock

The study looked at farmers who had kept their stock, those who had animals killed as well as other rural businesses and households affected by the epidemic.

It found Cumbrian farmers whose stock was culled had an average shortfall of income in 2001-2 of £51,516 compared with the previous year. Farms where livestock was not culled had a shortfall of £14,147.

But despite falling incomes the report – Coping with crisis in Cumbria: The consequences of foot-and-mouth – found that farmers had little interest in other ways of making money.

Although 13% intended to diversify into holiday cottages, most rejected other options such as converting to organic or gaining employment off the farm.

Researchers said the findings demonstrated the farming communitys resilience and determination to carry on.

Researcher Katy Bennett said most farmers and their families felt that F&M turned their lives upside down.

"For some it has shaken their sense of direction and self-belief and made them question their future in farming.

"Most, though, hanker for a return to what they know as normality and intend to restock."

The research was carried out when the outbreak was coming to an end last summer. &#42