Farmer confidence at lowest since start of pandemic, NFU warns

Most farmers said the phasing out of current support payments is negatively impacting their business confidence
Most farmers said the phasing out of current support payments is negatively impacting their business confidence

Farmer confidence is at its lowest since the start of the pandemic due to spiralling costs of production, the NFU has warned.

The union's latest confidence survey shows that the vast majority (88%) of farmers are being impacted by input costs such as energy, fuel and fertiliser.

And 82% of respondents said the phasing out of current farming support payments is negatively impacting their business confidence.

The survey comes amid a global pandemic, a war in Europe, tumultuous political change and extreme weather, all of which has impacted the industry significantly.

The NFU warned that the ongoing lack of confidence was hurting the horticulture, livestock and poultry sectors the greatest.

It added that if low confidence and uncertainty was allowed to continue, then further shortages on supermarket shelves could be seen.

The union's president, Minette Batters said it was "shocking but not surprising" that the farmer confidence survey reported the lowest levels in three years.

“We know from experience that low confidence indicates that farmers don’t have the means to invest in their food producing businesses, which could result in little to no growth in our domestic food security at a time when we need it most.

"It is also at odds with the government’s own plans for growth, and the commitments made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year to support British farming by setting a target for the nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels."

As well as food security, energy security is crucial to the UK, with the NFU's survey showing that just 38% of farmers are using or producing renewable energy.

The union said the industry had a 'huge ambition' to increase this, but confidence in the future was deterring farmers from making the investment.

Mrs Batters added: “Farmers need to know that government is supporting them through policies that build profitability and resilience into farm businesses to allow us to unlock a thriving food and farming industry.

"For this we need to see clarity on future farming support policies, including the Environmental Land Management schemes, which will help farmers plan ahead."

What else does the survey tell?

The survey outlines some of the key issues shaping the year ahead for farmers, which include:

• 88% being negatively affected by input prices

• 82% being negatively affected by phasing out of BPS

• 72% being negatively affected by regulation and legislation

The survey also shows that 55% of farmers intend to engage in one or more ELM schemes to mitigate the phase out of BPS, down from 68% last year.

• 41% are interested in Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)

• 21% are interested in Local Nature Recovery

• 15% are interested in Landscape Recovery