Claire Saunders speaks to the Guild of Agricultural Journalists

October 12, 2018

On the 11th of October, Fund Director Claire Saunders was invited to speak at the Guild of Agricultural Journalists Harvest Lunch.

Following a service at the beautiful St Brides Church, guests arrived at Painters Hall for a delicious lunch. Claire spoke on the topic of small family farms, and change management.

Claire told the assembled journalists:

“I would like to ask you to consider how we can come together to lead change in British Farming, particularly to help the smaller family farms who most need support.

I believe that we still need to engender a sense of urgency. Extraordinary as it seems, even those most at risk seem relatively unconcerned.

The new Agriculture Bill makes very clear that deep and extraordinary cultural change is coming and will demand new ways of working.

Although direct payments are being paid in full in 2019 and 2020 and being phased out over a seven year period, in agricultural terms that seems to me to be a very short timeline indeed. The average length of time for families to hold onto their farm is over 100 years, and indeed I sat on a farm in Northumberland last week as a gentleman told me how his family had been farming in place for 550 years!

A reduction on direct payments will affect many small farms radically, and many are just about managing as it is. Volatile farm gate prices, bureaucracy, TB, the effects of climate change, and the continuing difficulty of farming in challenging landscapes is continuing to affect their ability to thrive.

A key issue that the Farming Help charities have alerted us to over the last year is that it is “good, working” farmers now experiencing long-term, complex, debt and mental health issues. But it is not surprising that they are stressed.”

To find out more about our work with small family farms, click here.