27 July 2023

Welsh farmers are grappling with many different obstacles. From escalating production costs and a pressing need for climate adaptation to the looming uncertainty of upcoming policy changes, Wales's agricultural community is facing unprecedented adversity.

 

A Surge in Farming Costs

Tessa Elliot, a Pembrokeshire farmer, provides a glimpse into the current plight of the industry. With food prices soaring at their fastest rate in 45 years, and grocery costs up by 19.1% in a year, the financial pressure on both consumers and farmers is intensifying. For farmers like Elliot, essential farming costs, including seeds and fertilisers, are mounting on an almost daily basis, thereby squeezing profits and burdening consumers with higher food prices.

While supermarkets strive to keep prices "as low as possible," this has inevitably squeezed their operations, leaving them to seek cost-cutting measures. Although some economists predict that food price inflation may have peaked, this will not necessarily translate into significant price reductions due to ongoing geopolitical and economic pressures.

 

Climate Change: An Invisible Threat

The pressing reality of climate change adds another layer of complexity to the situation. According to a recent report, without significant support to adapt to net zero goals, livestock farms may risk significant job losses. Agriculture accounted for 14% of Welsh emissions in 2019, a majority of which was methane from livestock and manure. Adapting to climate change targets could lead to "significant impacts" on the farming workforce, potentially causing between 7,000 and 42,000 job losses across the UK.

Farmers like Ian Rickman, deputy president of the Farmers' Union of Wales, argue that older farmers need to be provided with training and resources to adopt new technologies and more efficient farming methods. However, there are fears that a focus on climate change could lead to neglecting the importance of food security.

 

A Future Full of Uncertainty

Preparations for the Royal Welsh Show offered an opportunity for dialogue about the current direction of the industry. Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths MS highlights the importance of farmers' input as the Welsh Government makes plans for the future of farming in Wales. Controversially, she recently announced an interim support scheme for farmers looking to protect habitats on agricultural land, following long-standing criticisms of an "upcoming funding gap".

The Farmers' Union of Wales responded with shock and worry, expressing concerns over the implications for farm businesses, especially the short time frame for introducing a new replacement scheme.

Meanwhile, mental health and rural isolation are also key discussion points. Charities like the DPJ Foundation are focusing on bringing farming communities together and creating conversations about mental health, further highlighting the multi-faceted challenges facing the agricultural community.

 

As Welsh farmers prepare to navigate these pressing issues, the road ahead is uncertain. However, by fostering dialogue and taking action, we may yet find the resilience to weather the storm.

 

Sources:

  • https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2023-07-23/key-discussions-over-future-of-farming-ahead-of-royal-welsh-show-2023
  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-65764449
  • https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-65776561