Farmers in crisis warned: ‘Don’t leave it too late’

FARMERS facing a crisis are being warned against leaving it too late before they seek help.

The Suffolk branch of the Farm Crisis Network (FCN), which seeks to help farmers in difficulty, says it is seeking to raise its profile as many of those who contact the charity for help put it off until the 11th hour.

The charity is also seeking funds and volunteers to help it in its work. FCN is made up of a network of volunteers from the farming community and local churches, providing practical and pastoral support to farming people during times of anxiety or stress.

These can come about as a result of problems relating to the farm business, the household or the family, but the Suffolk branch said in this area, low pig prices is one of the stressful triggers for those in the industry at the moment.

“It is easy to forget that one quarter of all farming families in Britain are living below the poverty line,” said trustee Jean Turnbull.

“At the same time, there are many more farmers facing a daily struggle to manage their business, care for their animals, look after the land and provide for their family while producing the food we all need.”

FCN, which was set up about 12 years ago, has a national telephone Helpline available throughout the year and volunteers located throughout much of England and Wales. In Suffolk, a group of 10 volunteers is coordinated by Philip Miles and chaired by agricultural chaplain Canon Sally Fogden.

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The role of each volunteer is to ‘walk with’ those in need and to support them as they resolve their problems and difficulties.

At present, many farmers are grappling with financial difficulties, FCN said, and some are battling health problems, animal welfare issues, family relationships or bereavement.

“It may be a matter of, helping someone to write a letter, accompanying someone to a meeting with the bank manager or accountant or simply listening, understanding but not judging,” said Jeanl.

“We rely hugely on church and public donations to fund our work and with that in mind we would be very grateful for any support from Suffolk churches. We appreciate there are many well deserving causes but if you felt able to donate the collection from your Harvest festival service later in the year this would be warmly received.”

Among the issues Suffolk farmers faced last year were problems with Single Farm Payments, problems with banks taking a hard line, fire damage and planning hold-ups on farm diversifications.

For further details please contact Philip Miles on 01379 898454 or Cannon Sally Fogden on 01359 268923.