15 September 1995

Farmer stress list topped by red tape worries – survey

By Allan Wright

FARMERS are more worried about red tape than their financial position. That was the conclusionof a team from Edinburgh University, lead by Dr Murray McGregor. His comments were based on a survey conducted at the Royal and Royal Highland Shows covering 35 stress factors.

Because debt worries appeared only half-way down the list Dr McGregor felt there was a relationship between the stress of filling in government forms and the finances they ultimately generated.

Stress snapshot

"This was a snapshot of stress in British farming taken a year ago. Because farmers have had more experience of coping with red tape, I would expect the scores to be different now," said Dr McGregor.

"There has to be a link between the high stress of filling in the subsidy forms and the much lower concern about borrowings and viability of the farm," he said.

The survey was part of a wider research project into the prevalence of suicide among farmers which is almost twice that of the general population. "We now have some factual data on factors causing stress among farmers. The data will be used along with case studies to try to establish links with the high suicide rate," said Dr McGregor.

He was not surprised that living in remote areas came at the bottom of the stress list. "Farming people are more mobile nowadays. They get to town, to meetings, and to markets. They may be isolated on their farms but they have plenty of opportunity to meet people," he said.

Dr McGregors stress survey has been analysed by the TSB Banks agricultural adviser, Donald MacRae.

"The generous terms of the CAP clearly provide a high level of financial security such that farmers seem relaxed about their financial prospects and position," said Mr MacRae.

"The downside to this financial lifebelt is that farmers feel they have little control over their own destiny. It is highly significant that the highest stress scores were all linked to government policy and the effects of weather," he added.

&#8226 Both Welsh farming unions have fired broadsides against red tape, writes Robert Davies. In a submission to the Welsh Office, the NFU claimed that planning authorities sometimes adopted an over protective approach when dealing with farming developments.

Following a meeting of its land use committee, the FUW said the whole planning process must be re-examined to establish priorities for light industry and diversifications crucial to the future of farming, local communities, and the rural infrastructure.