Urgent action needed to prevent rising costs impacting on British food production, NFU survey warns

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Spiralling costs are forcing Britain’s farmers to make significant changes to their food production plans, with some facing the prospect of going out of business, according to a new survey of farmers’ intentions by the NFU.

The survey reveals that a third of arable farmers have made changes to their cropping plans in the last four months, which 90% of growers attribute to rocketing fertiliser costs. The survey also indicates that farmers are beginning to switch from growing milling wheat for bread to feed wheat for animals, because it has a lower fertiliser requirement.

A survey of dairy farmers shows that 7% of producers believe they are likely to stop producing milk by 2024, which nationally could mean 840 producers leaving the industry. Over the next two years, dairy farmers were most concerned about prices of feed (93%), fuel (91%), energy (89%) and fertiliser (88%). 

Denting confidence

These rising costs are denting farmers’ confidence to invest. With the importance of food production recognised in the Government Food Strategy, the NFU is now asking government to put these words into action by introducing a statutory duty for Ministers to assess the impact any new policy or regulation will have on domestic food production. 

NFU President Minette Batters said: “We have some of the world’s best farmers who are passionate about growing a plentiful supply of food, produced to world leading standards of animal welfare, environmental protection and sustainability. Britain’s climate is perfect for growing and farming a diverse range of food. It’s more important than ever that we all value that and don’t take it for granted. 

“However, costs are rising rapidly on farms across the country and across all sectors. It’s already having an impact on the food that we are producing as a nation as well as leading to a crisis of confidence among Britain’s farmers. These survey results clearly set out what we have to lose if nothing is done.

“It’s incredibly positive that the government now recognises in its Food Strategy how important British food production is for the nation and its resilience. We now need to see this embedded across government business, with a new statutory duty for Ministers to consider how any new policy will impact on food production. 

Duty to consider food production

“Farmers are at the heart of delivering many of the ambitions government holds – whether that is food production, environmental protection, or reaching net zero. That’s why it’s so important for all departments to have a duty to consider food production, so there is a cross-government approach that truly values British food and farming and delivers for Britain. 

“Farmers are up for the challenge and playing their part in the solution but investment and commitment from government is crucial along this journey, particularly when they are battling costs like never before.

“Farming has always been a volatile business but with fertiliser prices doubling, feed and fuel prices rising, and the variable role of the weather, the decisions farmers are making now will feel more like a gamble than ever before. We now need government to put words into action and ensure the nation can continue to enjoy high-quality British food.”

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.