Financial support for farmers

Wensleydale farmer knew where to go for finance

How we helped one dairy farmer with the finance needed to get through tough times.

His family has been farming since the 1920s and his Yorkshire Dales dairy farm supplies the famous Wensleydale creamery, which is situated just 15 miles away. Until recently, he and other local farmers enjoyed a stable income and higher milk prices thanks to the area’s cheese-making success. But now, Stephen is experiencing the same severe financial pressures that other dairy farmers in the UK are facing.

The price he receives for the milk from his 130 cows has dropped recently by up to 8p a litre. It means his monthly income has reduced by nearly £5,000, he says. This drop was compounded by Stephen’s recent investment in a new building, which was needed to replace a dilapidated unit his father built in the 1970s.

He financed the building, which cost in excess of £100,000, with the help of both Barclays and his landlord. ‘Up to 90% of my income comes from dairy farming, so when it dropped so fast and by so much, it was hard to work out how to afford the repayments, he says.

‘I spoke to Claire Atkinson from Barclays – she’s based at Northallerton and often comes up to see me. We put a plan together to restructure the farm’s finances, which will help me get through this very tough period in the dairy industry. My family has banked with Barclays for nearly a century now so I knew they’d understand the harsh economic conditions dairy farmers like me are facing.’

Stephen has also sought help from another source – the Prince’s Dairy Initiative, which offers farmers a package of tailored business support. This includes advice on how to reduce costs and improve technical farm performance. It also offers farmers the opportunity to socialise and swap ideas at local workshops. It’s something that Stephen, who runs his farm by himself, appreciates.

Local companies, including Barclays, sponsor each of the workshops that the Prince’s Dairy Initiative runs here. They usually feature specialists who give advice on new farming techniques. ‘Earlier this year I was invited to Highgrove House in Gloucestershire with some 50 other dairy farmers to meet the Prince of Wales. He was really interested in the challenges my farm faces and was easy to talk to, even though I was really apprehensive.’

And even though he wasn’t supposed to offer gifts, Stephen managed to sneak in a whole Wensleydale cheese to present to the Prince of Wales – who later sent him a thank you note.

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