Opinion: Under-pressure farmers face ‘Mission Impossible’

Your mission, farmers, should you choose to accept it, is to do battle on a daily basis with a rapidly changing climate that is turning any form of weather forecasting into a game of complete chance.

You’ll deal with periods of prolonged heat and drought, severe gales, heavy frosts, and more rainfall and floods than you can ever remember – and that’s just the summer months. God help you in winter!

About the author

Will Evans
Farmers Weekly Opinion writer
Will Evans farms beef cattle and arable crops across 200ha near Wrexham in North Wales in partnership with his wife and parents.
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See also: Ability, not gender, is everything in farming, says Will Evans

You’ll clash with deadly foes calling themselves “land agents” that will be cunningly disguised in red trousers and tweed jackets to look like hapless characters out a PG Wodehouse novel.

They’ll sip cups of tea politely at your kitchen table and enquire after your family’s health in cut-glass accents, before casually delivering the news that your rent’s going up 40% next year. And no, you can’t have longer than a five-year term on the farm business tenancy either.

You’ll tell yourself not to worry about your herd’s upcoming TB test because there’s nothing you can do about it, but you’ll find this the biggest challenge of them all.

You won’t sleep properly for weeks in the run-up, you’ll face a never-ending amount of admin, stress and emotion in the event of a negative result, and the lead guitarist from Queen will have a go at you if you dare to even hint that the 437 badgers living on your farm might have something to do with it.

Every year you’ll pay the top rate of council tax for living in a damp, draughty house that was designed for life in the 19th century.

You’ll be provided with broadband speeds slower than an arthritic sloth. The lanes around your farm will have potholes so deep you could lose a Fiat 500 in them. And you’ll have to travel across two counties just to find the nearest Post Office.

On your land you’ll encounter trespassers, hare coursers, errant teenagers, fly-tippers, vandals, crop tramplers, dog walkers and good old-fashioned outdoor shaggers, and every single one of them will act as if they’re perfectly within their rights to be there. Get used to verbal abuse and develop a thick skin. You’re going to need it.

Politicians will tell you how much you’re valued, and you’ll find yourself wanting to believe them. They’ll assure you that you’re doing a marvellous job in feeding the nation whilst shaping our world-famous landscape.

And in the run-up to elections, they’ll fall over themselves for the chance to come and visit your farm to demonstrate their support for the farming community. Then, a month later, they’ll sell you down the river to do a free-trade deal with a country that has lower standards than we do.

You’ll need to be a soil scientist, accountant, secretary, vet, engineer, conservationist, builder, shepherd, plumber, electrician, fabricator, counsellor, IT expert, agronomist, tree surgeon, trader, pest control officer, mechanic, salesperson, tractor driver, and most importantly of all, you’ll need a very good sense of humour.

As always, should you or any member of your team fail in any of these challenges, we will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This opinion piece will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, farmers. Five, four, three, two…

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