The Bishop of Exeter has encouraged congregations not just to thank God for the food they eat but to remember the farmers who produce it at their Harvest Festivals.
As Foot and Mouth disease continues to push farming into crisis, the bishop also called on churches to consider the Farming Help Charities when gathering their Harvest collections.
“The first outbreak of Foot and Mouth in Surrey was worrying enough for farmers but the latest one could not have come at a worse time. Farmers left with animals that should have gone to market, short of both feed and money. Others uncertain about the condition of the stock they need to buy in for the coming year,” said the Rt Rev Michael Langrish, Bishop of Exeter, who chairs the Rural Strategy Group of the General Synod.
“Harvest is supposed to be a joyful time; a celebration of the fruits of the earth. That will be difficult for many farmers this year. Every church should give thanks for the farmers who put food on their tables, and for the auctioneers and hauliers who get it there, and pray for them at this particularly difficult time. A true sign of thanks would be to donate harvest festival collections to one of the Farming Help Charities: ARC-Addington Fund, Farm Crisis Network and Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution.”
Canon Glyn Evans, regional coordinator for the Farm Crisis Network, is working with local clergy to ensure pastoral support for the Egham family who had their stock culled when the new outbreak began. “It is important that farmers know they are not forgotten and that support is available,” he said.
The local situation is a lot more tense for farmers than during the first outbreak and people are more anxious. There are many hobby farmers in the area around Egham and therefore many more holdings and farming families. All local clergy have been contacted and asked to ensure that all holdings with livestock are supported.
Nationally, farmers, auction marts and hauliers are under great pressure, not least as this is the time of year for selling breeding stock and putting them to the ram for future production, not just animals for slaughter. Hill farmers face major losses with the cancellation of lamb sales, leaving them overstocked and, the grass having stopped growing, having to buy feed with no sales income. Animals should be moving down to the lowlands but such movement is banned. Pig farmers, already hit by high feed prices, cannot move stock, have no income and need to buy in more feed. Markets and hauliers lie idle.
The ARC-Addington fodder bureau, part of the ARC-Addington Fund that helps to support farmers at such times, is gearing up for an increased demand over the coming weeks. The fodder bureau’s is distributing fodder as required and the appeal has so far collected £5,000 in cash donations to cover haulage costs, 750 big bales of straw, 560 acres of straw in swath, 820 big bales of hay, 152 acres of grass to mow and 515 big bales of haylage/silage.
“We’ve already had contact with a number of co-ordinators and volunteers from Farm Crisis Network reporting the situation around the country and we anticipate a major increase in calls to FCN, ARC-Addington Fund and agricultural chaplains,” said Dr Jill Hopkinson, the Church of England’s National Rural Officer, based at the Arthur Rank Centre on the Royal Showground at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire. The ARC is providing briefings, information and support as needed.