An Anglican chaplain working to take the gospel to rural communities is urging prayers for farmers over mounting threats to Britain’s agricultural sector. “Believe me they are serious”, he told Premier.
According to Rev Richard Kirlew, who chairs the Agricultural Chaplains Association, a circle of Christian ministers working in rural communities, the biggest challenge facing farmers is what he called “uncertainty, uncertainty in the future, their future”.
With pictures of empty supermarket shelves circulating on social media, Asda and Morrisons have announced limits on purchases of certain fruit and vegetables, due to supply issues with fresh produce.
These shortages are being linked to extreme weather in Spain and north Africa, though critics of Brexit say there is little sign of empty shelves in other European countries.
Speaking to Premier Christian News after being out and about at the farmers’ market in Salisbury, where he wore his tabard and dog-collar, Rev Kirlew said farmers mention bovine TB, rocketing fuel, fertiliser prices and cheap imports from New Zealand as their top issues.
Urging consumers to ‘buy British’, the rural chaplain added: “A lot of farmers have been the second, third or even the fourth generation on a farm and they are suddenly thinking about not being there. Farmers feed nations. You need a farmer three times every day and we should remember that.”
His comments come as the National Farmers Union (NFU) gather for their annual conference. In a speech, NFU president Minette Batters warned that "the clock is ticking" for farmers and growers facing inflation, avian flu, labour shortages and climate change.
She said costs in agriculture have risen almost 50% since 2019 and UK egg production has fallen to its lowest level in nine years.
She added: "This was also the year that the potential impact of climate change really hit home. The extraordinary temperatures we experienced in July topped the previous record by almost a degree and a half.
"The clock is ticking. It's ticking for our planet, as climate change necessitates urgent, concerted action to reduce emissions and protect our environment.
Urging Christians not to forget to pray, Rev Kirlew said: “I occasionally talk to farmers who will really be at their wits end. They say to me, ‘will you say a prayer for me?’ I’m hearing this more and more now and I reply, ‘shall we pray now?’ And I’ve never yet been turned down.
“Farmers who you think are hardy, independent types are in actual fact not. They are in trouble. So we do need some support. If people can pray for the farming community that would be wonderful.”