Farmer confidence lowest since pre-pandemic, NFU survey shows

03 May 2023

Minette Batters standing in field with cows behind her.

Farmer confidence is at its lowest since the start of the pandemic, says the latest confidence survey from the NFU. 

This is in part due to the spiralling costs of production being faced by farmers and growers, with 88% saying they are being negatively affected by input costs such as energy, fuel and fertiliser. 82% of farmers have also said the phasing out of current farming support payments is negatively impacting their business confidence.

This lack of confidence is impacting the horticulture, livestock and poultry sectors the greatest and is evidencing the issues that have been seen on supermarket shelves with shortages of some produce including eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers.

Despite this, British farmers’ intention to invest in renewable energy generation and energy efficiency has increased rapidly. This demonstrates a real ambition to future proof farm business resilience and reach British farming’s net zero by 2040 target, as well as the importance of energy security to the nation’s food security. But investment to increase climate-friendly farming capabilities is being hindered by low levels of short and medium term business confidence.

NFU President Minette Batters said: "It is shocking but not surprising that our farmer confidence survey is reporting the lowest levels in three years. During this time, we have experienced a global pandemic, a war in Europe, tumultuous political change and extreme weather. If this lack of confidence and uncertainty is allowed to continue during such challenging times, it has the potential to lead to further shortages on supermarket shelves.

"We know from experience that low confidence indicates that farmers don’t have the means to invest in their food producing businesses, which could result in little to no growth in our domestic food security at a time when we need it most. It is also at odds with the government’s own plans for growth, and the commitments made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last year to support British farming by setting a target for the nation’s food security, with a statutory duty to report on domestic food levels.

"As well as food security, energy security is crucial to our nation, and currently 38% of British farmers are using or producing renewable energy. As an industry we have a huge ambition to increase this but confidence in the future is deterring farmers from making this important investment.  

"Farmers need to know that government is supporting them through policies that build profitability and resilience into farm businesses to allow us to unlock a thriving food and farming industry. For this we need to see clarity on future farming support policies, including the Environmental Land Management schemes, which will help farmers plan ahead and build financial resilience into their businesses."

More information:

The NFU’s Confidence Survey shows that short and mid term confidence among British farmers is at its lowest since 2020.

The survey outlines some of the key issues shaping the year ahead for farmers, which include:

  • 88% being negatively affected by input prices
  • 82% being negatively affected by phasing out of BPS
  • 72% being negatively affected by regulation and legislation

The survey also shows that 55% of farmers intend to engage in one or more ELM schemes to mitigate the phase out of BPS (down from 68% last year).

  • 41% are interested in Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI)
  • 21% are interested in Local Nature Recovery
  • 15% are interested in Landscape Recovery