Monday, 26 October 2015 00:27

Prince attends rural crisis summit

Written by  Ruralcity Media
Prince attends rural crisis summit

PRINCE Charles has joined a crisis summit of key figures to discuss the challenges facing the rural sector.

The Prince of Wales attended the summit, convened by the Prince's Countryside Fund, at Chatsworth, Derbyshire, on Friday (23 October).

Many farm businesses were vulnerable and on the brink of collapse following a summer of low farm gate prices, warned the charity.

Farmers were also battling red tape, complex applications to vital funding streams and the fear of delayed payments, it said.

Set up at the behest of Prince Charles in 2010, the Prince's Countryside Fund has given £6m in grants to 135 rural projects, directly benefitting 160,000 people.

The summit was attended by Defra minister George Eustice and other key figures from the sector including farming help charities, the banking industry, and landowner associations.

Chaired by Prince's fund trustee Lord Curry of Kirkharle, it sought to raise awareness of the "help at hand" for farmers from the banking industry and landowners.

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."

Volatility in milk prices alone had held the news agenda for months, said Lord Curry. British lamb and beef prices had been hit by weak export trade and domestic demand.

He added: "The fact that all commodity prices are so seriously compressed at the same time is almost unparalleled.

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

Lord Curry said it was vital that farmers facing adversity felt able to ask for help to access the advice and support that would see them through challenging times.

"All too often farmers struggle in isolation," he said.

Rural charities that form the Farming Help Partnership said they were being called upon to support farms that could previously be considered as sound businesses.

There is also concern that a growing number of desperate farmers are taking extreme measures to survive – such as seeking higher-rate loans from lenders and adding to their debt.

The Farming Help charities are offering workshops and training to frontline and senior bank employees to help banks understand the advice and support available for farmers.

Prince's Countryside Fund director Claire Saunders said the role of the fund – now more than ever – was to help ensure the sustainability of British agriculture and its wider rural communities.

Ms Saunders said Prince Charles would be announcing essential research commissioned by the fund into the consequences of failing to support a diverse farming sector.

"The legacy of today's summit will be to foster greater collaboration and communication between key players in the agriculture sector," she said.

"By fostering a greater understanding of the challenges facing farming we will go some way to help to 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.

"With the steadfast support of the wider sector, we can collectively commit to help secure a brighter future for British farming."

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  • Guest (Jonathon Harrington)

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    Why does almost everything have to be dramatised into a Crisis? What Crisis? Life is certainly difficult in the countryside but probably no more so than it is in a very different way iin the inner cities. Let's called it a 'challenge' instead, something we have to rise to face rather than something that will overwhelm us. We all face challenges in life; some of us go under and the rest either survive or thrive. Crisis? What Crisis?

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