Farming opinion: Hopes and fears - the human aspect of Brexit

With Brexit on the horizon, the future of farming faces deep uncertainty and the workload is only li

With Brexit on the horizon, the future of farming faces deep uncertainty and the workload is only likely to increase, says farming charity FCN's Keith Davis. - Credit: PA

The Farming Community Network (FCN) was set up over 21 years ago to give support to those facing difficulties within the farming community.

Keith Davis, Farming Community Network (FCN) eastern counties regional director.

Keith Davis, Farming Community Network (FCN) eastern counties regional director. - Credit: Archant

The last 18 months have been the most challenging for FCN since the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001. Farmers have borne the brunt of a series uncontrollable issues, including numerous disease outbreaks, bouts of flooding, two rounds of support payment confusion, as well as the increasing demands of ‘red tape’ and accumulating financial pressure.

With Brexit on the horizon, the future of farming faces deep uncertainty and our workload is only likely to increase.

At the recent Norfolk Farming Conference, a variety of farmers across East Anglia expressed their hopes and fears about Brexit. It was encouraging to see so many grassroots farmers give a personal account of how Brexit might impact their business and their life.

It is clear that leaving the EU presents the UK with great opportunities and great risks in equal measure. However, making the wrong decisions could have a devastating impact within the farming community, threatening the supply of home-grown food and the quality of the environment in which we all live.


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The ready availability of sufficient good quality food, water and air together in a safe and sustainable environment are fundamental to the survival of any population. As such, their provision should be one of the top priorities of any Government. Agriculture has a key role to play in the availability of all of those key requirements of life, so it is clear that developing a long-term, sustainable policy governing them should be done with the greatest care and utmost diligence, accounting for all the possible elements and considering every possible outcome.

The main focus of our concern is the human impact of Brexit and the welfare of farmers and rural communities. Whilst this has to be considered in a wider context, it should not be forgotten altogether. FCN has an important role to play by raising concerns about the effect of changes on the daily lives of the farming community. We will be urging those who are framing the future to consider, very carefully, the potential human costs of their decisions.

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Even without all of these issues and concerns, farming is not an easy way of life. It can be a lonely occupation with no respite or holiday. Farmers also have to deal with the trials and tribulations of every day life, such as bereavements, sickness, loneliness, disagreements and tiredness. Even if you make a success of your farming business, that does not guarantee happiness in the farm household.

It can be difficult to talk to someone when things go wrong. Running a farm can involve little, or no form of, social interaction. Furthermore, finding the time to talk to someone can sometimes feel impossible.

For most farmers, the solution is simple. They just need someone to listen, provide support and understand the situation – this is where FCN plays a vital role.

Many of our 400+ volunteers are involved in farming, or have close links with agriculture, and therefore have a great understanding of the issues farmers regularly face.

If you are a farmer, or have links with farming, please know that FCN is here for you and is prepared to “walk with” you through whatever troubles you are facing. Our volunteers pride themselves in giving practical and pastoral support to farmers and farming families all year round. Approximately 6,000 people a year benefit from our service.

If you are struggling with life on or off the farm, please call the FCN helpline on 03000 111999, or email chris@fcn.org.uk. The helpline is open from 7am – 11pm, 365 days a year, and all calls are treated non-judgmentally and with complete confidentiality.

More information about the work of FCN, including how you can support us, is available at www.fcn.org.uk.

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