Audit for Action is to highlight farming misery

3 September 1999

Audit for Action is to highlight farming misery

By Isabel Davies

FARMERS are being urged to show the government just how bad things are and expose the true human cost of the ongoing farming crisis.

The NFU launched an Audit for Action campaign this week – a questionnaire which it hopes will provide a graphic illustration of the genuine misery being felt by farmers and their families. The survey is described as the first ever major audit of farmers.

The two-page document, which will be circulated to all 83,000 members in this months NFU business newsletter, is designed to highlight the human cost and social consequences of the crisis.

It looks at issues such as whether farmers have had to resort to social security payments to survive or whether the strain of the past two years has led to physical problems such as an inability to sleep or loss in weight.

And it examines peoples expectations of the future, including whether they think their children intend to take on the farm after them.

Launching the audit, NFU president Ben Gill said: "Times have become extremely hard for farmers over the past few years but an increasing number of farmers are now facing desperation.

"Things cannot go on like this for much longer. The situation has become critical and this audit will help to demonstrate to government the strength of feeling among farmers."

In a letter which accompanies the survey, he said: "The completed questionnaires will tell a real-life, real-time story of the financial crisis which is now affecting tens and thousands of farmers and their families. It is a story which no one, least of all the Peoples Government can ignore."

The industry was in a state of near financial collapse and, while the union could tell ministers how things bad were, only members could show them, he added.

Mr Gill warned that unless urgent action was taken by the government some of the more remote parts of Britain would become depopulated as families were forced off the land. He feared the environment would then suffer through under-grazing and mis-management.

The union plans to use the results of the audit to lobby the government at the Labour Party conference to be in Bournemouth at the end of September.

Mr Gill said the plans for action had yet to be finalised, but it was likely that there would be events both prior to and during the conference.

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