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A challenging year for the farming industry

First generation farmer Gareth Barlow. Photo: Press Assocation

The Environment Secretary is hosting a business summit today aimed at helping farmers struggling to cope with the impact of bad weather.

Banks, farming charities and farming representatives will meet to discuss how farmers can be supported in difficult times.

In an article for ITV News, young farmer Gareth Barlow describes what a tough year it has been for the industry and calls for industry-wide planning and contingency for future challenges.

It's been a tough year for farming.

It has been a tough year for business in general, but when the uncontrollable weather plays such a pivotal role in your job, the difference between failure and success can be just a snow storm away.

This winter I count myself as one of the lucky farmers. Whilst my farm didn’t escape the snow earlier in the year, any impact on infrastructure or stock was minute and inconvenient at worst.

The same can’t be said for hundreds of other farms across the country. The emotional and financial heartbreak of seeing thousands of sheep, lambs and cattle killed by the weather was only punctuated by the odd good news story of a couple of sheep found alive. The good news stories aren’t the enduring legacy of tough years.

Farmer Gareth Wyn Jones during the search for sheep trapped beneath snow on his farm in Llanfairfechan, North Wales in March. Credit: Dave Thompson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

It’s easy not to notice many of the other effects of the past twelve month’s meteorological flop.

As thousands of acres of arable land were being re-drilled as a result of crops dying over the winter, National Farmers Union President Peter Kendall was detailing how the UK will be net importers of wheat for the first time in decades.

That said, UK agriculture is an amazingly successful sector and, on a world stage, we take some beating.

However, by 2050 the world population is estimated to reach nine billion. The land available for food production is ever decreasing, the challenges arising, ever increasing.

Today as the NFU, farmers, DEFRA, agricultural charities and other organisations gather to discuss the financial issues facing farmers, I hope that they look forward as well as at the present.

Farmer Paul Rattray from Westpark farm near Auchterarder as the winter weather continued across the UK in January. Credit: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/Press Association Images

As a 22-year-old first generation farmer looking to the future, I don’t want free handouts or a silver spoon.

What I am hoping for is industry-wide planning and contingency, to help producers and consumers approach and tackle the next issue that will inevitably arise.

It’s easy to take food consumption and production for granted and whilst at the moment it isn’t great, ultimately it still isn’t too bad. But we must be careful not to let complacency develop.

Such a situation should promote discussion, planning and action because there’s going to be many more hurdles coming our way.

Gareth Barlow is a 22-year-old first generation farmer who specialises in rare breed Hebridean Lamb in North Yorkshire's Howardian Hills.

He blogs at: www.garethbarlow.wordpress.com

His views do not necessarily reflect those of ITV News.