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Praying for our farmers and farming at this difficult time

The Diocese of York's Rural Life and Faith group reflect on the current challenges faced by farming communities.

In current times around farm kitchen tables, we will find a blend of deep anxiety and bewilderment about the future, perhaps especially with family farms. The reasons are varied and complex, but we highlight three.

1. Extreme Weather

The most immediate is the extreme weather, especially excessive rainfall. The impact varies but some will have very poor or no harvest in 2024 whilst carrying all the costs. An example would be a farmer who sowed oil seed rape last September, it failed so he sowed Winter Wheat in November, it was flooded out and finally he sowed Spring Wheat in late April but with likely  low yield. The very wet conditions have also had a devastating impact for some livestock farming, especially lambing.

2. Economic uncertainty

Concurrently farm businesses are also between two payment systems; the phasing out of CAP (European) based payments and introduction of the UK Environmental Land Management Schemes (ELMS).  The emphasis moves towards paying farmers for providing environmental and climate goods and services.    The concept is good, and many are embracing regenerative farming systems, but the impact on farm economics, food production and food security are uncertain. Some farmers are also extremely nervous about the high, long term investments needed in modern farming.  

3. Supply chain issues

The third issue relates to our food supply chain and the balance of power. We are living through a ‘cost of living crisis’ and yet recently Tesco have declared record profits.  Could they have done more to help struggling consumers? Is the food producer receiving too low a proportion of the shop price?  A report presented at the recent Oxford Farming Conference concluded: ‘the risk of producing food is outweighing the rewards, resulting in some farmers giving up production’. In our fragile world, what could be the impact on our food security and dependency on other countries?

These are a few of the challenges facing farmers and their families.  There is a danger of them feeling undervalued and there is ample evidence that the mental health of farmers is at a low ebb. Think also of the future for our young farmers at our agricultural colleges Askham Bryan and Bishop Burton.  We give thanks for the support from the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and farm support charities.   

Can we remember them all in our prayers and reflect our concerns in our food buying habits?

We pray for our farming community; for all who, as stewards of your creation work so hard to produce our food and care for our precious environment. Father, at this time of turbulence and change and with the long-term impact of severe weather there are some who are bewildered as they fear for their future. Guide all who farm to cherish your creation in their endeavour to produce healthy food. We pray for every farming family as they consider the options available; may each business discern the way forward to a viable and fulfilling future.

We pray for policy makers that they may bring clarity of policy and direction, enabling food security and ecological balance. We give thanks for all involved in the safe production and passage of food and pray that all, including farmers and growers receive a fair reward for their labour. Lord, we pray that all who consume their produce, including ourselves, may value and appreciate the sacredness of food and the graft and commitment involved in bringing it to our table.

If you, or anyone you know in the farming community is in need of support please contact these charities: