Farming day of prayer 29 July 2012

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A day of prayer for people involved in farming has been called for this Sunday, 29 July, by the Farm Crisis Network - a UK network of groups of volunteers drawn from the farming community and rural churches. The call has strong backing from our Diocesan Committee for Social Responsibility and its Rural Co-ordinating Group.

This day of prayer comes at a time of crisis for farmers and their families, following months of terrible weather and severe cuts in milk prices faced by dairy farmers.

Prayers will be said the day before Lammas Day, when it is traditional on 1 August to take a loaf, made from the first grain of the harvest season, bless it in church and ask for God’s blessing on the ensuing harvest. This loaf is then used to celebrate holy 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 farmers experienced unprecedented and near continuous rain for several months.

For the majority of farmers that was simply inconvenient but others suffered dreadfully through repeated flooding. For our farmers, such flooding is disastrous.

Mild and wet conditions are ideal for the growth of fungi which attack crops and potentially can devastate the yield. This leads to a difficult and potentially poor harvest with grain prices on the increase.

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. 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 – but this year 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. 

Please 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.

The Right Reverend Donald Allister, Bishop of Peterborough, and a former Archdeacon of Chester, is a trustee of the Farm Crisis Network. He has composed  the following prayer for use this coming Sunday:

Heavenly Father,
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.
Amen.


- Farm Crisis Network is available to provide practical and pastoral support to anyone in the farming community. FCN’s national helpline operates from 7am to 11pm every day of the year: 0845 367 9990.