lWe have a problem. On the whole, the future is looking positive for many farm businesses. Yet the fact remains that 25% of British farming families are living on or below the poverty line.

Although at the Farm Crisis Network we help all types of farm business weather the impact of all kind of problems, in 2009 almost 50% of our caseload related to severe financial difficulty and insolvency, with predictable consequences for animal welfare, compliance, mental health and family life. In every case these problems far predate the recession and are the direct result of the cumulative effects, not only of floods and livestock diseases since 2001, but of decades of government neglect coupled with the imposition of costly and bureaucratic regulatory systems without any serious effort to help the families and businesses least able to implement them.

For the most hard-up there is no consistent access to the right kind of advice. While there are solutions from excellent organisations such as Business Link, these tend to be short-term when what is needed is long-term advice. So what can we do? This is a question that should challenge the whole of the industry.

If you have any ideas for how we might, between us, help farming families out of poverty, perhaps through free access to the best support and advice, do let me know.

Rev Sarah Brown, executive director, Farm Crisis Network