Farmers fear regulatory pressures, finds NFU

Regulation tops the list of concerns for British farmers looking to 2014, according to a new survey from the National Farmers’ Union (NFU).

The NFU farmer confidence survey revealed that 74% of farmers believe regulation and legislation would have a negative impact on their business. High input costs and the impact of CAP reform were also high on the list, concerning 68% and 50% of farmers respectively.

NFU chief economist Phil Bicknell said survey results demonstrated a need for government to reduce regulatory pressure.

“A lot of frustration remains in this area, with farmers reporting little perceptible difference of burden on the ground, despite initiatives such as the Red Tape Challenge and the Farming Regulation Task Force. For these initiatives to be credible, we need to start seeing positive outcomes and farmers benefiting from the changes,” he said.

He added that Defra data suggested farming’s total cost base had risen by 21% since 2010. “Fertilisers and feed are up by 22% and 44% respectively, with added volatility also creating challenges,” he said.

He added that the movement of CAP reform into the top three farmers’ concerns was “a strong signal of farmers’ pessimism” over the new CAP rules.

“Budget cuts, the uncertainty surrounding new agri-environment schemes and the commercial impact of the new mandatory ‘greening’ rules have already negatively influenced farmers’ perception of the new legal framework more than a year ahead of its implementation,” he explained.

Bicknell said confidence was “critical” because it influenced investment and production. He added that while improved weather conditions had a positive impact on short-term confidence, more needed to be done to boost confidence and increase UK production.

“If we want our farms to compete in an increasingly global marketplace and make the most of emerging export opportunities, we need government action that addresses uncertainty, incentivises consistent investment patterns and produces action rather than rhetoric when it comes to reducing red tape,” he said.