16 October 1998
Survey reveals industry gloom

By FWi staff

A SURVEY of farmers in south-west England has revealed an industry in despair.

Of 2854 farmers who returned postal questionnaires, only 3% thought the government would ensure that farming survived.

About 14% thought farming was still a profitable business with a future, and only 8% saw farming as a good career for young people.

Almost all (94%) felt farming was moving from a way of life to a complex business dominated by rules and regulations.

Nearly 75% believed the farming sector would struggle to keep up with consumer demands for higher quality and lower prices.

Of those questioned, 86% felt local communities would be eroded if farming continued to decline – which was exactly what 58% expected to happen.

Further confirmation of that came from the 87% who said young people were moving away from farming as a career.

The survey suggested a trend to more part-time jobs being taken off the farm, and to more reliance on family labour.

Nearly all reported working longer hours for reduced returns.

The main threats to the future of farming were seen as commercial competition, poor public image, and food safety issues.

The majority who wanted further training specified financial and business management rather than technical matters.

The survey was conducted jointly by the NFU and Prosper, the skills and economic development agency for Devon and Cornwall.