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UK farmers consider quitting after extreme wet weather and low profits

Farmers ‘on the brink’ after record rains, phasing out of EU subsidies and price volatility

British farmers are considering walking away from their farms as the recent record run of wet weather has left the sector “on the brink”, rural bodies have warned.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) and the Soil Association raised concerns over the perilous situations facing many in their industry, with profits being squeezed and extreme weather driven by the climate crisis putting financial and mental strain on farm owners.

Helen Browning, the chief executive of the Soil Association, said: “A lot of farmers are really considering their options, and thinking about walking away from their farms, as they could make far more money doing something else.”

Browning, who runs a livestock and arable farm in Wiltshire, added: “If you were economically rational, you wouldn’t farm.”

The trade bodies’ comments came during a briefing on Thursday run by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) thinktank ahead of the second annual Farm to Fork summit being hosted by Rishi Sunak at No 10 next week.

The summit is expected to discuss the UK’s future food security against the backdrop of extreme wet weather that has affected four in five farms in the past 12 months.

The UK has been hit by 11 named storms since September, and experienced the wettest 18-month period since records began in 1836.

Tom Clarke, a board member at the AHDB, said the biggest effect on farms this year had been the poor weather, with many farms planting fewer crops, or no crops at all, due to fields being flooded. “It’s been a hell of a year, I think farmers across the UK are really on the brink, not only mentally, but financially and ecologically as well.”

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