Spiralling costs are forcing farmers to make significant changes to their food production plans, with some facing the prospect of going out of business, the NFU has warned.
A new survey by the union shows that third of arable farmers have made changes to their cropping plans in the last four months, which 90% of growers attribute to rocketing fertiliser costs.
The survey also indicates that farmers are beginning to switch from growing milling wheat for bread to feed wheat for animals, because it has a lower fertiliser requirement.
And a survey of dairy farmers shows that 7% of producers believe they are likely to stop producing milk by 2024, which nationally could mean 840 producers leaving the industry.
Over the next two years, dairy farmers were most concerned about prices of feed (93%), fuel (91%), energy (89%) and fertiliser (88%).
The NFU warned that rising costs are denting farmers’ confidence to invest, and with the importance of food production recognised in the recent Food Strategy, it is now asking government to put these words into action.
The union said a statutory duty must be introduced for ministers to assess the impact any new policy or regulation will have on domestic food production.
NFU President Minette Batters warned: “Costs are rising rapidly on farms across the country and across all sectors.
"It’s already having an impact on the food that we are producing as a nation as well as leading to a crisis of confidence among Britain’s farmers. These survey results clearly set out what we have to lose if nothing is done.
“It’s incredibly positive that the government now recognises in its Food Strategy how important British food production is for the nation and its resilience.
"We now need to see this embedded across government business, with a new statutory duty for Ministers to consider how any new policy will impact on food production."
She added: “Farmers are up for the challenge and playing their part in the solution but investment and commitment from government is crucial along this journey, particularly when they are battling costs like never before."
“Farming has always been a volatile business but with fertiliser prices doubling, feed and fuel prices rising, and the variable role of the weather, the decisions farmers are making now will feel more like a gamble than ever before.
"We now need government to put words into action and ensure the nation can continue to enjoy high-quality British food.”
610 dairy farmers responded to the survey on dairy intentions and 525 arable farmers responded to the survey on arable intentions.