Farmer raises fears 'desert' conditions will force people out of industry

Concerns have been raised that droughts and rising costs due to inflation could force people out of farming.

Farmers have detailed the difficulties caused by drought, which has forced an earlier harvest and will leave them struggling to store and sell goods.

This comes as a four-day amber warning for extreme heat in parts of England came into effect on Thursday, with temperatures set to climb to 36C in some places.

Richard Yates, who farms near Bridgnorth, said: "Conditions are extremely delicate. Every night I will see a couple of fires on the horizon.

"I have a beef, sheep and arable farm. The harvest, which has been reasonable, has been completed in record time. Usually I will just about be starting it now.

"The dry weather has sapped the nutrients out of the ground and some crops have literally died.

"The grass is resembling a desert and I might have to dig in to the winter reserves to keep the sheep and cattle maintained.

"I am concerned how depleted our reservoirs are and we will need considerable rainfall this autumn.

"Some farmers won't be able to carry on because the 'fire is too hot'. Ultimately, it comes down to how much money you owe."

Georgie Hyde, NFU environment adviser, said: “The impacts of this prolonged spell of dry weather are hugely challenging for many farms across Shropshire and Staffordshire and it is causing concern for all farming sectors, especially as we look ahead to the autumn.

“This highlights the urgent need for Government and its agencies to better plan for and manage the nation’s water resources.

“This will help build resilience into the farming sector and provide investment opportunities for irrigation equipment and to build more on-farm reservoirs.

“Shropshire and Staffordshire has seen a serious lack of rainfall and some crops, like maize, are showing real signs of stress, and there are also big challenges for farmers needing to irrigate field vegetables and potatoes.

“The dry weather has also severely hampered grass growth which could hit feed supplies for the winter, adding additional costs to livestock farming businesses at a time when costs are continuing to increase significantly.

“While there are obvious challenges we are pleased that harvest 2022 is well under way and that the combines are rolling across Shropshire and Staffordshire – we are well ahead of schedule.

“With the forecast predicting more dry weather though, we will continue to monitor the situation, continue to liaise closely with county NFU members and do what we can to offer our support.”

Due to the rising numbers of farmers leaving the industry, the Government has offered the Lump Sum Exit Scheme which will provide a payment to help them.

Farmers are expected to either rent or sell their land, or surrender their tenancy in return for the payment, and have until September 30 to apply.

The scheme, which opened in April, followed a public consultation that revealed some farmers want to leave or retire from the industry but found it difficult for financial reasons.

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