Farmers plan to quit or scale down

26 April 2001

Farmers plan to quit or scale down

By Johann Tasker

ALMOST half the farmers hit by foot-and-mouth disease plan to quit farming or scale down their businesses, a FARMERS WEEKLY survey can reveal.

Our farming future – the results
Will you restock after the crisis? (%)
Yes No Not to previous levels Dont know  
50 6 36 8  
Overall, have you been adequately compensated? (%)
Yes No Dont know    
46 27 27    
Should the government have introduced vaccination? (%)
Yes No Dont know    
16 64 20    
Has the government handled the crisis well? (%)
Yes No Dont know    
15 79 6    
How many years will it take for your farm to return to its position before the crisis? (%)
Fewer than 5 years 5-9 years 10 years or more Never Dont know
33 26 14 10 17
Notes: FARMERS WEEKLY questioned a sample of 128 farmers whose farms have had CONFIRMED cases of foot-and-mouth disease. The survey was conducted from 20-24 April 2001. Research by: Isabel Davies, Alistair Driver, Donald MacPhail, Jonathan Riley, Johann Tasker, Sarah Walton, Shelley Wright.

Some 6% of farmers with a case of foot-and-mouth expect to give up farming altogether – three times the percentage which leave the industry in a normal year.

More than one-third will only partially restock their farms. Fewer than half expect their businesses to recover in the near future.

The survey, which was conducted over the past week, provides the first glimpse of farmers expectations in the wake of foot-and-mouth.

Many producers believe the crisis is a watershed for British farming. In some cases, fields will remain empty as farmers shut down unprofitable enterprises.

Cumbrian farmer Kenneth Chalmers, whose livestock was slaughtered last month plans to give up rearing beef and concentrate instead on his dairy herd.

He believed farming would become more environmental. “Farming policy may favour small farms that help the environment and are self-sufficient.”

Martin Howarth, policy director for the National Farmers Union, said ministers should sit down with farm leaders to help manage any changes.

He said: “The best thing that could happen is for the government and the industry to come up with a blue-print for the future to help farmers recover.”

Wildlife could be boosted by lower stocking densities.

Mark Avery, RSPB director of conservation, said: “Livestock will always be an important part of upland farming but this is an opportunity to do things better.”

He added: “The government should be thinking quite ambitiously about different forms of farm support.”

Although signs are growing that the crisis is waning, the FW survey shows that the fall-out from the epidemic is likely to last for years.

Almost one in 10 farmers said their businesses would never recover. Only one third believed they would recover within five years.

Many producers praised the actions of local vets. But 79% said ministers had let them down, failed to keep up with events and with-held information.

Staffordshire beef and sheep farmer Jane Sargeant, who also manages a family-run abattoir, said: “The vets locally have been second to none.

“But ministers panicked and their dithering has set British meat back 10 years. Theyve turned it into a complete disaster.”


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