Apologies for pasting a blog post here from sister blog Fair Deal Food UK, but it seemed worth promoting.

Karen

17 05 2011 http://fairdealfooduk.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/another-farmer-forced-to-leave-the-land/

Rianne ten Veen shared this link about a ‘day of bad news for this farmer’.

The picture came from far afield – The Times of India! The BBC headline: Berkshire dairy farmer sells up amid milk price battle.

Michael Bowden is one of 10 farmers a week in England giving up milk production because of little or no profits.

“We’ve been fighting low prices for quite some time. I’ve been struggling for the past five years. It’s not something I want to do. Cows are my life. I’ve bred them, I know them, they’re almost friends, but we’ve just got to because we can’t go on losing money.”

Nigel Stacey, chairman of South East NFU Dairy Committee, said that the average cost of milk production is 31p a litre, but that the average milk price is 26p. “This means farmers are losing at least four pence a litre,” he said.

The profits that supermarkets and retailers are making are not being passed back down the line to dairy farmers

Berkshire has lost a third of its dairy farmers over the past five years, and predicted that in 10 years the amount of dairy farmers in the county will drop from 10,000 to 5,000.

The NFU is meeting with MPs to try to reverse this portentous prediction by asking for more transparent contracts that clarify how a supermarket has calculated its milk price. The union also wants to shorten contracts.

Problems for dairy farmers started with the dissolution of the Milk Marketing Board in 2002

Like many other farmers, Mr Bowden believes the problems for dairy farmers started with the dissolution of the Milk Marketing Board in 2002, which formerly set the minimum price for milk producers.

Consumer demand for cheaper prices, however, is not part of the problem, according to Mr Stacey: “The profits that supermarkets and retailers are making are not being passed back down the line to dairy farmers.”

The lives of some farmers have been destroyed

Mr Bowden will be selling his herd of cows on 6 July. “It’s a time of great stress,” he said. “Some farmers can’t cope with what’s going on because their life has been destroyed.

Farming suicides

17 05 2011

As stress and financial worries are common factors in male suicides it is reasonable to assume that farmers are no exception. In a research application on the Institute of Occupational Health’s website the summary says:

There is also no doubt that there has been a growing momentum of dissatisfaction in the farming community concerning enforced excessive record keeping, new legislation, regulations and financial worries.

One graph showed suicide rates in the early 90s that were considerably lower than post ’97 and for dairy farmers prices slumped after that date. Then the Milk Marketing Board was abolished – see above.

An Exeter University Rural Stress Review quoted a study by Dr Matt Lobley* and others which found that farm suicides were lowest in 1981. In addition, it was pointed out that between 1991-93 and the postal survey of 1995/6, the social and economic climate of farming had changed. Major reforms to the Common Agricultural Policy had been implemented and for some, the boom times of the mid 1990s may have already been over.

The study also quoted findings in the leading work in this field by Keith Hawton that although problems at work and in family life were the most common difficulties, they appeared less likely to be important in causing suicide than financial and legal problems and mental ill-health.

* Dr Lobley will be a main speaker at the FFA Westminster meeting tomorrow