Growing optimism about farming’s future

Farmers in England and Wales have started to feel more confident about the future of the industry, according to a survey by the NFU.

The union’s annual Farmer Confidence Survey showed that 51% of farmers are either a ‘little’ or ‘much more’ confident about the next five years, compared to 37% of farmers when asked the same question in 2010.

One in five businesses reported an increase in profits for 2011, although almost 30% said they were facing declining profits with some saying they may not survive.

Dairy was one of the worst affected sectors with 42% of respondents reporting a decline in their bottom line and concerns about their long-term survival.

Stronger livestock prices in recent months meant that beef and sheep farmers were more positive, with 53% saying they were confident in the industry’s short term future compared to just 24% a year ago.

NFU director of policy Martin Haworth said the results, based on the views of 412 farmers, showed a fragile optimism about the future.

“As ever, reporting on farming fortunes is a mixed bag with overall confidence on the increase while some sectors remain hard pressed.

“The results from the dairy sector are not surprising and validate NFU calls for the recent rises seen in the milk price to be shared across the supply chain. In a sector where profitability has been historically low, such as across the beef and sheep industry, the survey points to rising confidence but it’s undoubtedly linked to headline prices and profitability expectations show that confidence remains fragile.”

Other key findings

•           Overall 50% of farmers looking to increase production over next five years
•           Farmers planning to cut investment in machinery, while increasing investment in buildings and training

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