Prince joins crisis talks over state of agriculture

Lord Curry, HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Devonshire inside The Prince's Countryside Fund.
Lord Curry, HRH The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Devonshire inside The Prince's Countryside Fund.

HRH the Prince of Wales has joined a crisis summit of key figures in the rural sector.

The Prince, who is Patron of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, joined the event as the charity warns that many UK farms are on the brink of collapse.

The summit, chaired by Lord Curry of Kirkharle, was attended by Defra minister George Eustace, farming help charities, landowner associations and representatives of the banking industry.

Members heard that farmers are struggling due to a summer of significant lows in farm gate prices, a heavy administrative burden, the complex process in funding applications, and the fear of delayed payments.

Charities that form the Farming Help Partnership are increasingly being called upon to support farms that previously were considered sound businesses.

And there is also concern that a growing number of farmers are seeking higher-rate loans in order to survive, adding to their debt.

Lord Curry said: “Britain’s farmers are facing a perfect storm this winter. The depression in prices across the main agricultural sectors has been unprecedented in recent years.

“The security and diversity of British food production is too important an issue to disregard.

“It is vital that farmers facing adversity feel able to ask for help to access the advice and support that will see them through challenging times and help make their farm businesses resilient to market forces. All too often farmers struggle in isolation.”

The group agreed to raise awareness of the support available to farmers from the banking industry and landowners, and a commitment was made by the Farming Help charities to offer workshops and training to frontline bank employees to help them understand what support can be given.

Director of The Prince’s Countryside Fund Claire Saunders said: “The role of The Prince’s Countryside Fund, now more than ever, is to help ensure the sustainability of British agriculture and our wider rural communities.

“The legacy of the summit will be to foster greater collaboration and communication between key players in the agricultural sector. By fostering a greater understanding of the challenges facing farming, we will go some way to help solve them.

“Through the work of the Farming Help Partnership, the projects we support and our emergency fund, there is valuable and much needed help for farm businesses.”