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The Farmer Confidence Survey showed short and mid-term confidence is at its lowest since records began in 2010

The confidence of English and Welsh farmers is at an all-time low, a new NFU survey has revealed.

The farming union’s latest Farmer Confidence Survey, published today, showed short and mid-term confidence across the sector was at its lowest since records began in 2010.

This decline in confidence has also led to a decline in production intentions, with all farming sectors expecting to decrease production over the next year.

The wet weather has played a significant negative role, with 82% of 797 respondents saying their farm businesses had suffered fairly negatively (52%) or very negatively (30%), with mixed farms, arable farms and dairy farms taking the biggest hits.

The survey was taken in November and December 2023 and with the months of rain that have followed it is likely results would be “even worse”, the NFU said.

It is calling for the government to recognise the extraordinary nature of what has been the wettest 18 months since 1836.

Many businesses may not survive 

Farm business profitability had also decreased, with 65% of respondents saying profits are declining or their business may not survive.

“These figures paint a really stark picture,” said NFU president Tom Bradshaw. “Confidence has collapsed after months of devastating flooding, unsustainably high production costs and low market returns, and against a backdrop of reduced farm support as we transition to a new Domestic Agriculture Policy and associated farm support.”

He added that the sector had already lost 7,000 businesses since 2019 and “no one wants to see that increase, least of all our customers who really value the high-quality, sustainable food British farmers produce”.

General election manifesto

In its general election manifesto, the NFU has listed solutions for political parties to adopt to support farmer confidence.

The manifesto included planning for and rewarding farmers fairly for their role in mitigating flood risk, a smooth and seamless transition to new environmental schemes that are open to all farmers and growers, establishing minimum standards to promote a fair supply chain, and developing and establishing core production standards that apply to agri-food imports.

“In the run-up to this election, I urge all political parties to recognise this resilience and the crucial role we play in sustaining our nation, said Bradshaw. “With their support we can do more to contribute towards our national interests – producing more sustainable, affordable food and renewable energy, driving economic growth, providing jobs, and delivering our national environmental ambitions.”