Farmers’ confidence is at ‘all-time low’, NFU warns

The confidence of English and Welsh farmers is at an “all-time low”, the latest NFU survey has revealed.

The confidence of English and Welsh farmers is at an “all-time low”, the latest NFU Farmer Confidence Survey has revealed.

The Farmer Confidence Survey has shown that farmers’ short and mid-term confidence is at its lowest since records began in 2010.

As a result, production intentions have also plummeted, with all farming sectors expecting to decrease production over the next year.

The relentless wet weather has played a big part, with 82% of respondents saying their farm businesses have suffered fairly negative (52%) or very negative impacts (30%).

Mixed, arable and dairy farms have taken the biggest hits.

General election manifesto  

The survey was undertaken in November and December 2023. Since then, farmers have been battling relentless heavy rain through January, February, March and most of April.  

The experts said that if the survey was carried out again today, the results would be even worse.  

Farm business profitability has also fallen, with 65% of respondents saying their profits are declining or their business may not even survive.   

The NFU is now calling on the government to recognise the extraordinary nature of what has been the wettest 18 months since 1836, warning that many farms may be unable to survive.  

In its general election manifesto, the NFU has provided solutions that political parties can adopt that would work to reverse this breakdown in farmer confidence and help safeguard homegrown food production, including:  

  • Planning for and rewarding farmers fairly for their role in mitigating flood risk and committing to the proactive management of our watercourses.  
  • A smooth and seamless transition to new environmental schemes that are open to all farmers and growers, and ensure profitable long-term food-producing businesses.  
  • Establishing minimum standards to promote a fair and functioning supply chain.  
  • Developing and establishing core production standards that apply to agri-food imports.  

Britain cannot afford to lose its ability to feed itself

NFU president Tom Bradshaw

NFU president Tom Bradshaw said that these figures paint a “really stark” picture.

He added: “Confidence has collapsed after months of devastating flooding, unsustainably high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reduced farm support as we transition to a new domestic agriculture policy and associated farm support.

“Any business owner knows that without confidence and a steady cash flow, businesses will struggle to re-invest and remain viable.

“We have already lost more than 7,000 agricultural businesses since 2019, no one wants to see that increase, least of all our customers who really value the high quality, sustainable food British farmers produce.

“With climate change wreaking havoc on food systems across the world and geo-political tensions high, Britain cannot afford to lose its ability to feed itself.”

READ MORE: General election: call for new government to source more food from British farms

READ MORE: NFU Conference: Which party will deliver best plan for British food?

Hanging in the balance

Mr Bradshaw added that a lot is “hanging in the balance” ahead of the general election.

He pointed out that political parties will rightly be focusing on how to reverse the cost-of-living crisis, and with food inflation still high and families struggling with food bills, supporting homegrown food production must be part of this.

The NFU president added: “The good news is that there are solutions the current and future governments can adopt to help rebuild farm business confidence, from investment in our water management to developing core production standards for food imports.

“While we are seeing record lows in farmer confidence, I never cease to be amazed by our amazing farmers and growers; their passion, drive and ingenuity for the work we do.

“Innate tenacity means we do not give up easily. In the run up to this election, I urge all political parties to recognise this resilience and the crucial role we play in sustaining our nation.

“With their support we can do more to contribute towards our national interests, producing more sustainable, affordable food and renewable energy, driving economic growth, providing jobs, and delivering our national environmental ambitions.”

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