"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

British farmers reveal their twin struggles with climate change and mental health.

Climate change has made Britain wetter, and farmers have paid the worth.

Winter 2023 was considered one of them. wettest on record. The results were clear for all to see throughout the first half of 2024: soil washed away of its nutrients, crops stuck in waterlogged fields, and livestock sickened by waterborne diseases.

Adverse conditions meant farmers needed to delay planting and harvesting. Production of probably the most common British crops – wheat (bread), barley (malt for brewing), oats and oilseed rape (vegetable oil) – is about. 21 percent less in 2024 2015-2023 average. To meet demand, food manufacturers will import from abroad and pass on their additional costs to consumers. It is severe weather. Estimated have already added £361 to the common UK food bill over the past two years.

My work with UK farmers And farmers have seen how they’re adapting to the consequences of climate change, and the way it’s affecting their work and lifestyle. The results are startling. The issues facing farmers go to the very heart of UK agriculture, and are sometimes things they feel they will do little or nothing about.

A field in the beginning of the sowing season.
John Wheaton

A hidden mental health crisis

Farmers told me they were frightened about post-Brexit farming policies and trade deals with other countries akin to Australia and New Zealand, flooding the country. Cheap imports which reduces domestic producers.

Market forces determine or reduce the worth farmers receive for his or her produce. Meanwhile seasonal employees, akin to fruit pickers, are harder or expensive to draw now the UK is outside the EU. In addition, there are all the issues arising from climate change.

According to British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, male farm employees are 3 times more prone to take their very own lives than the national average. Every week, three people die by suicide within the UK farming industry.

A farmer plows a muddy field.
A farmer tries to drag out recently planted plants.
John Wheaton

The Farm Safety Foundation (FSF) runs an annual campaign, Take care of your head, which asks agricultural employees to contemplate the foundation causes of their stress, anxiety and poor mental health. A recent survey of farmers by the FSF found that 95% of under-40s listed mental health issues as considered one of their biggest challenges. The reasons for this became apparent during my research.

Farmers are all too accustomed to extreme weather – standing knee-deep in muddy water while attempting to harvest crops illustrates climate change. Farmers talked about how extreme weather is making harvest times increasingly unpredictable, affecting the growing season of crops. A farmer in West Lancashire told me:

I feel more like an expert gambler than a farmer. What will the weather be like next spring, and what should I plant? Who knows!

The way forward for a farm, and plenty of generations of family businesses, relies on a stable income. Unpredictable weather on account of climate change makes these regular financial returns elusive.

Commercial pressure

Farmers and ranchers I interviewed told me that supermarkets even have a powerful influence on the agricultural sector. This puts downward pressure on farmers' prices of their produce.

That farmers are unable to set their very own prices is considered one of several aspects limiting agribusiness profitability and stopping long-term planning – including take care of climate change. Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture 11% of UK total.

Farmers were keen to indicate that they still receive the identical financial reward for lots of their products as they did years ago, despite the trend of inflation and rising food prices. Farmers are frustrated that their relationship with markets and buyers prevents them from adding value to the product, with one saying:

[Farming] That needs to be the one industry where you may't determine the worth of your end product. I’m losing a penny a liter on milk.

A row of plastic milk bottles in a supermarket fridge.
Farmers can take a small share of the general cash in on retailing.
Nomadic Spirit / Shutterstock

Many farmers are struggling or giving up farming altogether. Other jobs are common amongst farming families. Some farmers are overcoming these problems by collaborating with neighbors and sharing farm supplies. One farmer said: “You don't go into farming to get rich… it's a way of life”.

One selected the family that it will not be in anyone's interest for the son to grow to be the farm manager. The son had a well-paid and successful profession in engineering and retired at age 55, while his father continued to administer the farm into his eighties.

My research paints an image of the lone farmer, struggling to fulfill the immediate needs of his business while the escalating effects of climate change loom large. As one farmer put it: “There [were] There have been five people – but now there's only me.” The heritage and way forward for British farming hangs within the balance.

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