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Who is going to Feed the Farmers who Feed the Animals that Feed You this Christmas ?

Charities on hand to help farmers and their families this Christmas

Christmas time is usually a joyous occasion for many, but it is also a time of year when stress levels among farmers are at their highest. Olivia Midgley speaks to the charities on hand to help.

20 December 2014 | By Olivia Midgley

Farmers Guardian

Christmas provides farmers and their families with a short break to sit back and take stock of the year before looking ahead to the next 12 months.

However, farming charities have warned this year could be especially difficult for some.

Charles Smith, chief executive of The Farming Community Network (FCN), said: “We are going into the New Year with farm finances stretched by depressed commodity prices which show few signs of early recovery.

“At the same time, farmers are facing the biggest changes to Common Agricultural Policy arrangements and support payments in a decade.

“And this is on top of the day-to-day stresses of running bigger and more complicated businesses with greater levels of risk and fewer people to share the burden.”

Mr Smith said stress levels were building ‘noticeably’ in many farming families across the country and he and his 350-strong volunteer team were gearing up to provide broader and more extensive face-to-face support than ever next year.

“It will not take another flood or disease crisis to leave many families in urgent need of support,” he added.

“Nor will this need be confined to the most exposed upland and tenant farming sectors.

We know a small straw can break the camel’s back just as easily in large, apparently secure, arable businesses as it can in small, obviously vulnerable, livestock ones.

“When stress levels are high, issues which could quite easily be resolved with the right support all too frequently turn into real crises.

“Especially so when people cannot see where to turn for a helping hand or are reluctant to ask for it early enough.”

It was to underline this determination and ability to provide support well beyond times of immediate crisis that FCN changed its name from Farm Crisis Network in 2013.

‘Community’ was brought into the charity’s title to stress the fact the army of volunteers in its 33 county-based groups were embedded in farming, ‘know it from the inside and have access to all the skills and expertise necessary to address modern farming issues’.

The most prominent issues FCN deals with today are financial difficulties, coping with bureaucracy, physical and mental well-being, and family relationships, while bovine TB problems and concerns were, unsurprisingly, especially acute in some parts of the country.

Mr Smith said: “More often than not, it is not a single issue which is the problem.

“One thing overlaps with another, then another, and eventually everything becomes too much. This is something our volunteers know only too well – many from personal experience.

“They also know how to help people work through their problems and find their own solutions, re-building the self-confidence and emotional resilience which has so often been lost.”

Welfare charities in Scotland said many farmers would be affected by the Scottish Government’s new agenda for change prompted by the ‘No’ vote to independence.

Taxation and legislation over inheritance and land reform were changing and would pose issues for some farming families.

RSABI, which helps people who have depended on the land, was also expecting an influx of calls over the Christmas and New Year period.

RSABI development manager Paul Tinson said forward planning had enabled the charity to launch its Help for Heating Fund when the country experienced a quick switch to freezing conditions earlier this month.

Mr Tinson said: “Keeping homes warm will often offset stress and depression. This is why we have put aside £30,000 which we think will make a real difference to rural communities in Scotland.

“This is in addition to the help we give to 500 people year-in, year-out.

“The farming community is traditionally very proud and what we try and do is engage people and encourage them to come forward. What we would say to farmers is if you are feeling down or a bit fed up then please pick up the phone and call the helpline.”

  • Call the RSABI Help for Heating Fund on 0131 472 4166

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