Media coverage and policy at both national and EU level is increasingly paying attention to how farming populations in multiple countries in Europe are facing problems in terms of wellbeing. Similar attention is also being paid to this issue in Flanders (Belgium), although research data on this problem is lacking. The present study fills this gap by investigating what type of stressors farmers are experiencing in their daily activities. Through qualitative interviews (15) and focus group discussions (9), reaching 81 Flemish farmers, 2 categories of stressors are identified as negatively impacting on farmers wellbeing. The first category encompasses regulations and administrative burdens which are understood to be increasingly strict and complex, adding to workload and reducing the autonomy of the farmer. A second category relates to financial insecurity, including points such as anxieties as to the overall future of the farm enterprise and price volatility. These stressors and their direct impact can also be retrieved in other countries.

In addition to these findings, this article will argue that these stressors are inextricably tied to perceptions by Flemish farmers about a changing socio-political climate that is understood to be increasingly anti-farming. Throughout the individual and group interviews on stress and wellbeing, a discourse emerges about a lack of societal respect towards farming in which farmers express increasingly feeling alienated from society. Hence, these individual stress factors cannot be detached from a set of collective grievances about the place of farmers as a professional group in the larger societal fabric. The point on regulations and administrative burdens is put in a framework wherein farmers indicate increasingly being misunderstood and disrespected. A specific symbol of contention in this regard are so-called ‘green regulations’ centred around biodiversity, animal welfare, climate … The issue of financial insecurity is tied to a larger moral critique wherein society supposedly no longer wishes to pay a fair price for honest labour and healthy food products.

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