Opinion- Malcolm Thomas, chairman of farming welfare charity The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI)


Another year is drawing to a close and we have seen so many changes both here in the UK and across the world. One can only guess the changes that 2017 will bring.


It has been impossible to escape the Brexit issue in 2016.


We apparently have hard, soft and smooth versions of Brexit, although I am not sure if anyone has a realistic idea of what each version represents.


What is clear, however, is that we are about to embark on a long, detailed and probably acrimonious round of trade and political negotiations that will run well into the future.


The problem that this creates for our farming industry is that medium to long term planting and breeding decisions will have to be made with little idea of what the future will look like.


Will there still be agricultural support measures? What form will that support take? What trade tariffs will our exports face in the future?

Farming is complicated enough without these uncertainties hanging in the air. In the meantime, problems such as TB and poor commodity prices continue to feature heavily in the applications for help and assistance received by RABI.


Every year, we give out about £2 million to farming people in financial need.


In my mind there is no doubt that the work of RABI is just as relevant and as important today as at any other time in our 156-year history and the increasing support we provide to working farmers is the clearest evidence that there continues to be real structural problems in parts of our industry.


This year, from January 1 to November 16, we gave out grants of more than £417,000 to working farmers and their dependents – a startling 93 per cent increase on the same period in 2015.

That money has supported 188 families in hardship across England and Wales.

My hope for RABI in 2017 is that we target even more people. We know there are still lots of families who could benefit from our support, but choose instead to suffer in silence and struggle on alone.


We need everyone’s help to get our message out there and reach as many people in financial need as possible. If that’s you, don’t let pride stand in your way. We want to help you and your family.


To all our hardworking committees, friends and supporters, I must also say a big thank you. Without your support, help and assistance RABI would not be able to carry out the great work that it does and our agriculture industry would be the poorer for it.


You represent what RABI is all about and long may that continue.

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