Part 7 - Small-scale producers pushed out
As intensive farms have spread, small farms have closed down. About 4,000 farms closed between 2010 and 2016, according to the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs, of which three quarters were in the smallest category (less than 20 hectares of land). The number of big farms – those with more than 100 hectares – remained constant.
Pippa Woods, of the Family Farmers’ Association, said the increased price of land combined with falling prices for goods meant family farmers could not compete with larger farms, who can make far more profit thanks to the economy of scale.
She used to keep a thousand hens and earned enough money from the eggs to pay her weekly food bill. But the growth of battery eggs led to the price of eggs dropping, and her hens became unprofitable.
With profit margins on smaller farms wafer thin, some feel they should expand and start supplying big, integrated companies to secure their future, she said.
The loss of small farmers would be a great loss for the UK, she warned, as they are good custodians of the countryside. They tend to run mixed farms, which helps keep soil healthy and produces grain for the animals, whereas intensive farms bring in grain and dispose of waste on HGVs going in and out. Pollution accidents from large intensive farms are on a bigger scale and much more disastrous, she added.
“Local farmers contribute to the economy, the local area, the local communities,” said Woods.