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How has the current crisis in farming affected the farmers and the local community in an LFA?


Copyright Gavin Duley 2001

The area I studied for this project was in Snowdonia National Park (SNP), north Wales. In this area, as in all UK upland areas that are being farmed, the farmers are facing a severe economic crisis.

Should we worry about farming? I feel that we should. While undertaking this study, I found out that farmers play a number of different roles, that encompass social, economic and environmental roles.

I conducted the following questionnaires: Farmer’s Questionnaire, Local Resident’s Questionnaire, VIP Questionnaire, Farming-related Industries Questionnaire, and an Extended Questionnaire for case studies. A wide range of secondary data was also collected and analysed.

Of 21 farmers interviewed, sheep/cattle were the main farm products, the majority being sheep farmers, reflecting the agricultural situation for Wales, particularly the north-east Region. Snowdonia farmers have important environmental responsibilities. Surprisingly, the farmers felt that subsidy levels were reasonable. Some respondents blamed the crisis on supermarkets or butchers (for profiteering). Farmers feel that the government is out of touch with rural issues. More farmers will be forced to leave their land, and perhaps more farms will not pass on to the farmer’s children. This means that their roles (social, economic and environmental) will be left unfulfilled.

I also interviewed 21 local residents. Small rural settlements in the SNP are also suffering a decline in prosperity, and demographic changes that are typical of a vicious circle of decline. Local businessmen were interviewed, and I discovered that farming related industries are also suffering with the farm crisis.

Conclusions drawn were-

  1. Farmers have failed to organise themselves into an effective political lobby or to argue their case the general public;
  2. The strong pound is an important problem, and entering the EMU may improve matters;
  3. Farm incomes in the SNP are extremely low compared with the average UK salary, with many farmers living in poverty;
  4. For 30% of farming families, this is the last generation. New problems include divorce, suicide and inherited debt. This is very demoralising for farmers and their families;
  5. The role of farmers is being redefined, food production no longer being their only role – diversification such as tourism has helped some to survive. A role for which farmers should be recognised and paid is stewardship of the landscape;
  6. Rural communities need support to reverse destructive trends. Helping farmers may also help employment in communities but services urgently need subsidisation;
  7. Government has a central role to play in all of these – constructive suggestions are provided.

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Copyright (c) Gavin Duley 2001