The public believes farmers earn an average salary of £46,800/year, more than double the true figure.
That’s according to a survey by The Prince’s Countryside Fund, released on Monday (31 July) to mark the start of National Countryside Week.
Some 10% of the 2,000 people asked think farmers earn on average more than £75,000/year.
In 2015, Defra reported the average farming income had fallen below £20,000, the lowest point since 2007, with farm borrowing levels almost doubling in the past decade.
The survey also shows that 17% of farms have been unable to pay off their short-term debts, highlighting the public’s lack of awareness of the reality of farming.
However, only 32% of the public asked said their knowledge of the countryside and farming was either poor or very poor.
Lord Curry, chairman of The Prince’s Countryside Fund said: “Many of us envisage the picturesque countryside lifestyle with a comfortable living.
“Unfortunately, for one of the oldest professions which contributes more than £108bn/year to the economy, the reality can be very different.
“Farmers work long hard hours, receive modest pay for their efforts, have financial instability and are now faced with growing uncertainty.
“The farming industry needs support from the British public through the buying of home produced food to help maintain its viability for the future.”
The fund’s research with farmers revealed the majority of challenges being faced by family farms are financial, such as poor commodity prices, the potential loss of the basic payment, and costs being too high coming top of their concerns.
Worryingly, as the farm subsidy scheme is likely to be replaced with a system of payments for delivering environmental benefits, only 21% of respondents think farmers play the leading role in managing the countryside.
Almost the same amount, 23%, instead think the lead is taken by central government, local councils or the National Trust.
A third of the public also thinks just 30% of UK land is used for farming, far less than the true figure of 71%.
But almost three-quarters of respondents believe that farmers properly manage the land that they look after, including the environment and wildlife.