Hill-farmers becoming endangered species

01 September 1998

Hill-farmers becoming ‘endangered species’

By Shelley Wright

FARM leaders today (1 September) called on the Government to recognise the perilous state of hill farming, as they released a report revealing the problems faced by upland communities.

The NFU study, called Protecting Our Upland Heritage, claims that almost 40% of hill farmers in England last year had a net farm income below £10,000. In Wales, 70% of hill producers are even worse off.

The report estimates that average income on an English hill-farms could drop to £8000 or less.

Ben Gill, NFU president, said the collapse in market prices had left farmers feeling extremely despondent.

“The industry is working hard to survive, but the Government must help us at this crucial time or hill farmers will become an endangered species,” he said.

Peter Allen, chairman of the unions Less-Favoured Areas committee, said average incomes on hill cattle and sheep units had fallen by more than 60% in the past two years.

“We cant live off our backs from year to year as we did in the past,” he said. “We need the coffers topping up or we are in extreme trouble.”

Mr Allen pleaded for Government to reconsider its decision to abolish plans for an early retirement scheme. And he begged the Government to introduce a scheme “to allow these people to get out of the industry with some dignity”.

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