Farmers prioritising sustainability investments, NFU survey shows

30 March 2021

The NFU’s latest Confidence Survey reveals that more farmers than ever are planning to invest in energy efficiency and adopt other net zero measures on farms. This positive focus comes despite a backdrop of sustained low confidence and high levels of uncertainty within the farming industry.

Farmers’ intentions to invest in energy efficiency are at the highest level recorded, followed by plans to invest in diversification and skills and training.

This signals just how important sustainability and efficient food production is for farm businesses, and, in the year the UK hosts COP26, how British farmers are best placed to deliver climate-friendly food both now and in the future.

NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: “It’s fantastic to see so many farmers making plans to implement net zero measures on their farms, whether it’s investing in energy efficiency or carbon storage, especially at a time when business confidence among farmers is so low.

“As a nation we really stand up tall when it comes to climate and environmentally friendly food production, and we can’t take this for granted.

"Nor can we ignore the fact that overall farm business confidence has remained negative for three years running and the significant impact this is having on businesses and their ability to invest in things that would support increased sustainable food production.

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“Farmers already deliver so much for the nation and this survey demonstrates that farmers are eager to do more as we work towards our ambition of becoming net zero by 2040. As an industry we have huge potential when it comes to contributing to the government’s green growth ambition, whether it’s boosting farms’ productivity and efficiency, increasing renewable energy production, creating jobs, contributing to economic growth, and building on the UK’s sustainability credentials at home and abroad.

“But this potential will never be maximised if a lack of confidence, certainty and opportunity holds British farming back.

"The industry is facing serious changes and farmers need to know that the government is not only supporting them, but investing in levelling up urban and rural areas to provide the same opportunities for rural businesses as those in towns and cities enjoy. Confidence can be boosted by something as simple as ensuring farm businesses have access to efficient broadband which is so crucial for running a modern day business.

“If more than half of farmers are already preparing to invest in planting trees and improving soil health, just think how much we could achieve if farmers are given more confidence, and crucially, more opportunities, to invest in their enterprises.”

In order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the survey shows that: 

  • 69% of farmers plan to improve soil health or carbon content
  • 51% plan to plant trees
  • 38% plan to enlarge or extend hedgerows
  • 35% plan to invest in more renewable energy generation (37% of farmers are already producing or using renewable energy)
  • 35% plan to invest in low carbon agri-technology e.g. precision farming, livestock monitoring

More information:

The NFU’s Confidence Survey shows that short and mid-term confidence among British farmers has remained negative for the third year running.

The survey outlines some of the key concerns for farmers in the year ahead, which include:

  • The phasing out of BPS (78% believe this will negatively impact them)
  • Input prices (59% believe this will negatively impact them)
  • Regulation and legislation (53% believe this will negatively impact them)
  • Farm gate prices (45% believe this will negatively impact them)

The survey also shows that 44% of farmers and growers have been impacted by the pandemic. Common impacts include:

  • Reduced output prices
  • Disruption to markets/customers
  • Impact on diversified enterprises

The survey was taken by 662 NFU members between 5 November 2020 and 8 January 2021.

Short-term confidence is classed as one year and mid-term confidence is classed as three years.

Read the NFU’s Levelling up rural Britain report here.

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