Farmers say future more uncertain than ever

Many farmers are still resisting change to their businesses and are increasingly uncertain about who will take on the farm when they retire, new figures reveal.

A five-year survey of 15,000 farmers’ intentions from the National Farm Research Unit found that four out of five on average did not envisage major changes to their business

In the aftermath of CAP reform that figure is falling, from 88% in 2003 to 53% this year, but it still remains high.

Jim Williams, director of the NFRU, said it meant many farmers would have to abandon agriculture leaving fewer, stronger businesses behind them.

The research also showed that farmers were coming to terms with the fact that their children might not want to take the farm on.

Over five years, an average of 65% thought the farm would remain in the family, but by 2005, that had fallen to 56% as farmers struggled with CAP reform.

“The introduction of the MTR has changed farming outlooks and has resulted in many farms considering the possibility of restructuring,” said Jim Williams of the NFRU.

“This may have coincided with or be responsible for the next generation looking further afield at alternative career paths away from the farm.”

The most pessimistic region was the north east, where only half of farmers thought they would pass the business on to a member of the family and nearly 30% were uncertain.

Wales and the East Midlands were the most optimistic.