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I’m a British farmer. Here’s the scary truth about what’s happening to our crops

The climate crisis is making the farming business unsustainable – and without support for us, food security will suffer too

Farming has always been a risky business. To the chaos of Brexit and the relentless squeezing of the supermarkets, we can add the rapidly escalating threats associated with climate change. In most industries, at the point where risk is judged to outweigh the potential commercial reward, both capital and people tend to make a swift exit, following economist Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” of self-interest.

The problem with farming is that most farmers are emotionally invested in their work. An exit is seldom considered – perhaps we should be more like the bankers, but they wouldn’t be much good at growing potatoes.

Around the world, farming practice evolves in response to past success. Over 30 years, I’ve recorded planting and harvest dates, temperatures and yields, using data to guide my decisions, just like generations of farmers before me. But over the past decade, as the pace of change in weather patterns has accelerated, the value of that accumulated experience has become increasingly irrelevant. For most farmers, this last year has been about grabbing rare, good weather windows and trying to make the most of wet conditions as we repeatedly fail to get crops sown.

As the risk of crop failure has grown, margins have shrunk, meaning there’s nothing in the bank to pay for the bad years. Farm-gate prices have been driven down to levels which, in a good year, just about cover costs, but leave nothing to cover crops lost to adverse weather.

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Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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