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Financial pressures for Yorkshire farmers
Farm landrover in Wharfedale
Financial pressures are forcing more farmers to ask charities for help

More farmers in Yorkshire are turning to charity to cope with the financial pressures they are facing.

Farm Crisis Network have told the BBC that they saw nearly a 50% increase in the number of people approaching them for help in 2010.

The charity says the majority of those contacting them are facing financial difficulties.

The industry blames increasing fuel and feed costs and low milk prices for many of the problems.

A spokesperson for Farm Crisis Network said in 2009 they handled 110 cases but in 2010 the number of farmers calling them for help had risen to 161, a rise of almost 50%.

The charity added:

"We cannot be specific about the reason for each case but it is true to say that the majority of cases are the result of problems with finances and the Rural Payments Agency.

"Other reasons are legal problems, poor health, family difficulties and retirement, the list seems to be endless."

Snow covered sheep, North Yorkshire.
Severe weather in 2010 caused additional difficulties for many farmers

Diversification

Steve Newlove from Thorpe Hill Farm, at Whixley, near Knaresborough, is one farmer who has been forced to diversify.

"We were a massive pig breeding farm, but you just couldn't make a living from a 111-acre farm like this."

The farm is now being converted into an outdoor education centre.

"It will give families and groups the opportunity to come and visit an actual working farm. They will be able to see how it works, how food is produced and how it gets to the supermarket."

He admits that the current state of the industry has made it difficult for many farmers:

"One local farmer had a disease strike during last year's lambing season and he lost 50% of his stock.

"Fuel prices are also a real issue, particularly if your land is spread across a wide area. It now costs twice as much to go round and check your animals than it did ten years ago.."

Steve believes more farmers in his position will consider diversification but warns that it isn't always the answer, "You do need to think carefully about what you want to do.

"You have to do your homework. Are you in the right location? Will your new business need passing trade?"

More help

Anne McIntosh, the Conservative MP for Thirsk and Malton, is the Chairman of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee.

View of the Yorkshire Dales
Farmers play a major role in preserving the countryside

She says she is hopeful that more help for farmers would be forthcoming, in the long-term, as changes are made to the Common Agricultural Policy.

Ms McIntosh says farmers have been telling the Select Committee that they are "most concerned" about rising fuel costs, dairy prices and the cost of feed for livestock.

There are also concerns about the way in with the Single Farm Payment is paid to them.

The MP says she believes that there does need to be more public recognition of the wider role that farmers play in the community in terms of caring for the local environment and landscape.

Difficult winter

A second farming charity, ARC Addington, also said it had seen a rise in the number of farmers asking for help.

Their regional fundraiser, Ian Bell, said the situation had been made worse by the difficult winter and he said that many farmers were getting to the "end of the road."

The regional director of the National Farmers Union (NFU), Richard Ellison, said he wasn't surprised by the charity's figures, "given the appalling winter and the increasing fuel prices."

He said that farmers were "very aware" that many other industries were going through severe financial pressures:

"We've been trying to not whinge, we're simply trying to tell it like it is. The fact is that the number of farmers has been dropping and that trend looks set to continue due to a range of pressures."




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