Scottish farmers more optimistic, says bank

Optimism among Scottish farmers is at its highest level for 12 years, according to the results of an agricultural survey by Lloyds TSB.

The bank’s Donald MacRae said feedback from the 285 farmer respondents showed arable and dairy farmers had major expansion plans with an anticipated increase in the acreage they plan to rent.

However, the survey also indicated a large fall in the sheep flock, with producers now teetering on the brink of the price point at which they would start reducing sheep numbers.

A significant reduction in suckler cows and calves was also on the cards for 2008, according to survey’s “up corn, down horn” feedback.

Overall profitability in the last complete financial year was up to 82%, the second highest rise since 1996, with actual investment in 2007 one third higher than farmers had planned.

However, 77% of all farms and 94% of livestock farms are unprofitable without the single farm payment.

Scottish farmers are also encountering big problems sourcing labour with two thirds reporting they found recruiting permanent staff “hard or very hard”, said Prof MacRae.

Almost half the respondents had business income from non- farming sources.

“The range of source of this income is very wide but, not surprisingly, top of the list is income from property, such as rented cottages,” said Prof MacRae.

NFU Scotland has jumped three places in the ranking of factors the farmers questioned believed were the most likely to influence the future prosperity of Scottish agriculture.

The NFUS emerged in fourth place overall, after EU and UK agricultural policies and exports.