Less than half of farmers feel positive about farming future

Just 41% of farming respondents felt positive about their own future in farming, according to Defra’s biannual farming opinion tracker.

Furthermore, almost two-thirds of respondents (65%) remain not at all confident that changes to support schemes and regulations will lead to a successful future for farming.

Defra’s October 2023 survey received responses from more than 1,350 farm businesses.

See also: Defra minister hints at SFI cap to maintain food production

It found that, while more farmers now have a better understanding of Defra’s vision for farming, the general sentiment among farmers is low for the future.

Defra farming minister Mark Spencer said: “It is absolutely vital that we listen to feedback from farmers to ensure that our farming policies are the best they can possibly be.

“This year, we have taken on board responses to the previous surveys and set out significant upgrades to our farming schemes, including an uplift in payment rates, the introduction of around 50 new Environmental Land Management actions, and a single application process for the Sustainable Farming Incentive and Countryside Stewardship.

“However, I know that our work does not stop here, and I want farmers to know that we will continue to reflect their views and improve how our schemes work for their businesses, food production and the environment.”

Changes on farm

Reliance on environmental schemes has also grown with 83% of farmers saying that Defra paying for environmental outcomes will be important to their businesses going forward.

However, farmer confidence in Defra to deliver schemes is improving, with just over a third of responses at least somewhat confident in their ability, up from 29% previously.

There were some further positive changes for the industry in the results with a higher proportion of farm holdings feeling they had the information needed to help with business planning.

A number of external factors were found to be having an impact on decision-making on farm and leading to businesses making changes.

Fluctuating input prices were having the biggest impact, with 87% of respondents making changes on farm as a result, as businesses look to mitigate risk from volatile markets.

The two other major factors leading to changes on farm were fluctuating output prices (59%), and weather and climate change (55%).

Farming organisations and advisers were found to be playing a larger role in helping to implement changes with 39% of respondents finding they have helped in October 2023 compared with 32% in October 2022.

This is likely to be partially down to schemes such as Defra’s Future Farming Resilience Fund, which provides funding to agricultural consultants to offer free business advice to farmers.

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This article forms part of Farmers Weekly’s Transition series, which looks at how farmers can make their businesses more financially and environmentally sustainable.

During the series we follow our group of 16 Transition Farmers through the challenges and opportunities as they seek to improve their farm businesses.

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