20 July 1998
Lowland farmers suffering, too — survey

By Boyd Champness

THE plight of livestock hill farmers has been well documented, but a survey released by the National Farmers Union today (Monday) shows lowland livestock farmers are also suffering.

Ben Gill, NFU president, said the survey confirms that specialist livestock producers, whether they are in the hills or the lowlands, are suffering serious and sustained financial pressure with few signs of relief in sight.

Eighty-five percent of lowland farmers surveyed saw a fall in income in 1997, while only 14% maintained their existing incomes. The livestock sectors growth has also been stunted with 80% of farmers reducing or maintaining the level of investment in their businesses. On top of this, nearly 24% of respondents reduced the level of labour on their farms.

Finding a way out of the crisis also looks difficult, with nearly 78% of farmers saying there was no opportunity for diversification in their businesses, while only 22% believed that diversification was an option.

The survey also confirmed that young people are no longer prepared to follow in their parents footsteps and take over the family farm. Only 1% of those surveyed were under the age of 24, while 76% of respondents were over 45.

Mr Gill and David Williams, national NFU livestock chairman, announced the preliminary results of the survey at the Royal Welsh Show in Builth Wells.