The research also showed that despite these challenges, 86% of farmers are at least ‘somewhat’ optimistic about the future of agriculture, whilst three-quarters have either invested in agricultural technology, or are planning to do so.
The figures have been published after Lovewell Blake surveyed 150 farm businesses in the region, as part of a national study being undertaken by the Rural Agriculture Group (RAG), a collaborative body of specialist agricultural accounting teams right across the UK. The overall national figures will be published later this year.
The study found that the future of subsidies was the most commonly cited future challenge to farming, with environment and climate change coming a close second. Issues such as Brexit, availability of labour and supply chain issues all came in the bottom half of the list of perceived challenges. Price volatility, cashflow, succession issues and tax all featured in the top half of the list.
35% of farm businesses have either changed their business or have planned how they will do so in the light of the new subsidy regime – although 38% said they were unsure what to do about the situation, and just over a quarter (26%) admitted that they were unsure whether their businesses would still be viable under the new regime.
Despite this, just 14% of those surveyed said they were not optimistic about the future of agriculture, with 51% saying they were ‘somewhat optimistic’ and 34% expressing full-on optimism.
Meanwhile, nearly two-thirds (63%) of those surveyed said they had already invested in agricultural technology and planned to continue to do so, while a further 11% were looking to invest in the future.
“This is an important snapshot of attitudes with our local farming community here in East Anglia,” said Chris Solt, agricultural partner at Lovewell Blake. “It is fascinating to see what issues farming businesses see as the main challenges, and heartening to see the level of optimism in the sector despite these challenges.
“It is also encouraging to see the high proportion of farmers in our region who are embracing new technology and investing in it. This shows that despite the uncertainty about the new subsidy regime, farming businesses are still prepared to invest in the future.”
The Rural Agriculture Group survey is asking the same questions to farmers in different regions right across the UK. The full national results will be published later this year.
Key findings of the survey
Which of the following would you rate as the main challenges to farming at the moment? (Rate up to five, in order)
1. Future of subsidies
2. Environment, climate change, weather
3. Price volatility
7. Availability of labour
9. Mental health and wellbeing
10. Acquiring technology
11. Supply chain issues
12. Rural crime
How has your business utilised advances in agricultural technology?
• I have already invested and will continue to invest in technology – 63%
• I have considered utilising and am looking to invest in technology – 11%
• I have considered utilising and am not looking to invest in technology – 20%
• I do not plan to invest in agricultural technology – 6%
With regards to the future of subsidies, please select the statement that is most appropriate
• I have changed my business ahead of the changes – 26%
• I have planned how my business will cope with the changes – 9%
• I have planned changes but am unsure whether the business will still be viable – 26%
• I am aware of the changes but am unsure what to do about it – 38%
Business succession – succession plans are:
• Successfully in place – 26%
• Being considered or have been started – 49%
• Not in place – 26%
Are you optimistic about the future of agriculture?
• Yes – 34%
• Somewhat – 51%
• No – 14%