It has been a difficult year for almost every industry. Brexit, the pandemic and the climate crisis are driving change in almost every area of our daily lives.
UK farmers have been particularly hard hit, with many losing 20% of their income in 2020.
Driving forces of change
Below, we take a look at some of the forces behind the changes and challenges in UK farming:
The breakup of the UK and the European Union (EU) has dealt several blows to the British farming industry.
Trade tariffs – or the threat of – are now a barrier to trading British meat in the EU as easily as before.
The varying food standards and potential for future disparities also make it harder for farmers to know how much trade they can expect in the future.
Additionally, Brexit is driving a labour shortage for the farming industry, with far fewer EU citizens coming to the UK to work on farms during harvest season.
The lockdown involving the closing of catering and hospitality businesses cut off one of British farming’s core markets last year.
Food waste on farms was at an all-time high and farmers struggled to refocus their supply towards supermarkets.
The triple blow of UK lockdowns forced farmers to face this challenge over and over.
The climate crisis
The recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that the climate crisis has reached a point where extreme weather conditions will be more frequent and more ferocious in the future.
Extreme weather such as floods, wildfires and extreme heat will all have a negative impact on agriculture in the UK through damaging crops and killing livestock.
This will in turn disrupt supply chains from UK farms and inhibit the availability of food.
Cultural attitudes about the way we eat are also challenging livestock farming.
As more young people are vegan or have a predominantly plant-based diet, animal agriculture will face increased challenges in the future.
Protecting British farming
Worried farmers are understandably concerned about protecting their futures.
Farming insurance is one way that farmers can protect their assets, especially against changing weather patterns.
Other British farmers may be approaching more sustainable farming solutions, with small-scale farming being cited as one way of facing the future.