07 September 1998
Survey uncovers hill-farmers’ poverty

EVEN with two jobs, 61% of young West Midlands hill-farmers earn less than £10,000 a year, according to an NFU survey.

The second jobs ranged from bus-driving to bartending and 94% of respondents said low income was a major hurdle to the future of hill farming. Only 22% believed they could afford to stay in business.

The farmers surveyed, all under 40 years of age, live and work in the less favoured areas of Shropshire, StAffordshire, derbyshire and Herefordshire.

Claire Robinson, NFU West Midlands policy adviser, said: “Young farmers are scraping a living from the hills and many cannot afford to carry on. If they give up there is no-one to take their place. This then begs the worrying question – who will look after the hills?”

Farmers blamed the strong Pound and the lack of interest paid by the Government in maintaining a viable hill farming industry, she added.

Peter Allen, the unions national less favoured areas committee chairman, said that plummeting farm incomes and product prices were forcing the industry to its knees. Without government help, hill farmers would go bust, resulting in rural depopulation and the creation of unmanaged wastelands.

  • The NFU, in conjunction with the National Federation of Young Farmers Clubs, is holding a national conference on the future of young farmers in the hills in London on Thursday.