`The pressure is unbelievable'

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The Independent Online
THE MOST recent setbacks in the industry's fortunes have made life worse for William Jenkins, a Welsh hill farmer who has made no profit for six years.

His quality of life continues to slip as the value of European Union subsidies and the demand for his animals falls.

Mr Jenkins, who grazes sheep, cows, calves and horses on 160 leased acres in Blackwood, Monmouthshire, said: "The stress has been unbelievable. We have bills in our house owing from Christmas because we haven't got the money."

Mr Jenkins, 48, says he would not want his three daughters to go into farming. "I always wanted to be a farmer, but I would never want my children to go through these last few years. The pressure has been unbelievable. My wife now works in a school, then does farm work followed by housework. She doesn't do it to take us on holiday to Florida. She works to enable me to farm." Mr Jenkins, who rears animals before selling them to lowland farmers, says combined circumstances have wrecked his livelihood.

"Since 1992 our EU subsidy for living and working in the hills has been eroded. Our ewe premiums have also fallen because, although the price of our lambs has dropped in the market, the average cost of lamb across Europe has gone up.

"Because beef prices are the lowest they have been for the last 15 years, and the price of lamb is the lowest for 6 or 7 years, lowland farmers haven't got the money to buy."

Closure of auction houses through lack of business "would be a disaster because, without competition, the supermarkets would have a monopoly".

Mr Jenkins added: "People say, `why should farmers have a subsidy?' If I can't sell an animal in the market I still have to feed it. I'm losing more money all the time. It's different from any other industry."

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