At Lammas tide, which on August 1st, it is traditional to take a loaf, made from the first grain of the harvest season, to be blessed in church and to ask for God’s blessing on the ensuing harvest. This loaf is then used to celebrate communion. Given the extremes of weather experienced in the Spring and early Summer this year, it is unlikely that any farmer will be in a position to harvest any crops by this date.
Early in the year while the talk was of drought conditions and hosepipe bans, many crops started to suffer from lack of moisture, Then we experienced unprecedented and near continuous rainfall for several months. Week after week we have heard of new records for high rainfall being established; for the majority of us this has simply been inconvenient while others have suffered dreadfully through repeated flooding. For our farmers, who toil all year long to provide us with the food we need, it can mean disaster.
Mild and wet conditions are ideal for the growth of fungi which attack crops and potentially devastate the yield. This leads to a difficult and potentially poor harvest with grain prices on the increase. Sadly good harvest weather is not in sight as yet, so this is of little comfort.
In the meantime, high grain prices are pushing up feed prices for livestock farmers, who are also suffering at the hands of the weather. Thousands of stock-farmers had to bring their animals back indoors to prevent them damaging valuable grazing land in the wet conditions. Because of this, many are obliged to feed their animals with costly winter forage or costly bought in feed – and with haymaking badly hampered until the weather improves, there is little prospect of being able to replenish those stocks before this coming winter. Without such reserves, many are very worried about the welfare of their animals in the cold months to come.
On top of all this, we see dairy farmers, many of whom are already trying to cope with the devastation of bovine tuberculosis among their herds, having to contend with draconian price cuts for their milk, bringing them to a level, which for many is totally unsustainable. There is a very real likelihood of many dairy farmers simply going out of business.
Farming has always been a risky business and farmers are well used to managing those risks. This year, however, is proving to be quite exceptional, bringing with it concerns of a much greater magnitude than normal. When these worries are amplified by the isolation of rural living and the sense of neglect felt by many farmers, increasing pressures can prove too much, sometimes resulting in tragic and devastating consequences.
So this Lammas tide, take a moment to consider the plight of our farmers and their families. They have the burden of feeding the nation while managing and caring for our countryside in such difficult circumstances.
Farm Crisis Network is calling for a day of prayer on Sunday, 29th July for our farming community who everyday face the consequences of this terrible weather and who often pay a much higher price than the consumers of their production.
The Right Reverend Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough, who is also an FCN Trustee, has composed the following prayer for use on Sunday:
the earth is yours and the harvests are your bounty.
We pray for our arable farmers
in this year of extreme weather.
We pray for our dairy farmers
with supermarkets forcing the price of milk down
and with bovine TB in some parts of the country.
We ask your blessing on the harvest
and on all who work in farming.
We ask that farmers facing difficult times
may know your love
and our support.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thank you for your support of the farming community, especially at this difficult time.
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Farm Crisis Network is available to provide practical and pastoral support to anyone in the farming community. FCN’s national helpline operates from 7.00am to 11.00 pm every day of the year: 0845 367 9990.
Find out more about Farm Crisis Network at http://www.farmcrisisnetwork.co.uk/.