Farm census shows regular worker numbers continue to fall

The number of regular full- and part-time farm workers in England fallen, according to Defra’s June 2018 census figures.

It highlighted that 4.5% of the 45,000 regular, full-time workers had either quit or moved into a different role within farming over the 12 months.

Regular part-time labour also fell by 1.6% to a total of 26,000.

Despite this, the June 2018 survey showed that the 309,000 total workforce was up slightly from 306,000 in the previous year once salaried managers and farming partners, directors and spouses were taken into account.

See also: Farm census reveals sharp rises and falls within sectors

The latest result continues a downward trend since the start of the century when the regular workforce was almost 50% larger, at 63,000.

In contrast the casual labour workforce has grown slightly over the past 18 years, from 45,000 to 50,000.

The increase between June 2017 and June 2018 was up from 48,000 to 50,000, a rise of about 3%.

The largest part of the farm labour remains people who classify themselves as farmers, business partners, directors, and spouses.

This group makes up 178,000 people (58% of the total), an increase of 1.9% on 2017.

Land ownership snapshot

Also included in the finalised data is a snapshot of land ownership and tenure across England.

Almost two-thirds (6.2m ha) of the 9.2m ha of commercial agricultural land is owned freehold, with the remainder (3m ha) under some form of rental agreement.

Both categories of land have increased over the 12 months by about 1.8%, reflecting a slightly larger area under commercial agriculture land use.

The biggest changes in land tenure over the 12 months are within the tenanted sector.

The move away from Full Agricultural Tenancies continued, with a decline of 2.2% to 1.37m ha of land under this type of agreement.

By comparison, the amount of land covered by Farm Business Tenancies has almost reached parity at 1.3m ha (6.6%).

Seasonal agreements

The census also revealed a changing picture in seasonal agreements and grazing licences.

In 2018 more than 0.55m ha was rented for less than one year, a rise of 4.6% in this type of agreement over the 12 months up to June.

The area of seasonally let land rose by an even greater percentage of 5.7%, to total 0.43m ha between 2017 and 2018.

What is the census?

The agricultural census is taken across 25,000 farms every June and compares the results with previous years. Provisional information on crop and livestock numbers is released in September.

The finalised data, published in late October, highlights any errors in the earlier figures and includes the labour statistics. Despite the huge number of farms involved in the census, Defra pointed out that the figures are exposed to outside influences.

For example, it said that the number of casual workers engaged in agriculture at any one time can vary greatly, due to weather extremes, cropping areas and harvest timing.