Input costs, profitability, cash flow and the loss of BPS payments top the list of factors that are impacting how UK farmers are now running their businesses, according to a new report.
The annual ‘Marketing to Farmers Report’ from Hillsgreen, in partnership with England Marketing, which surveyed 745 farmers, also revealed that climate change and investing in renewable energy remain high on the farming agenda.
When asked to rank the factors which are having the most impact on the way they farm, respondents said:
- Farm input costs;
- Loss of BPS payments;
- Land availability;
- Government grants;
- Clarity on Defra schemes;
- Interest rates;
- Climate change;
- Staffing issues.
Whilst money worries continue due to inflation, energy costs, and feed costs eating into potential revenue for many businesses, in agriculture, it is also a lack of communication from the government on various agri-environmental schemes and grant payments that is having a real impact on everyday farm operations.
Not making the top ten but highlighted in the research as other areas of concern were also:
- Age regulation;
- Staffing issues.
Diversification – the main focus of investments
In the current challenging climate, farmers were also asked about their investment plans and it was found that investing in some form of diversification (35%) was being most considered by farmers.
They were also actively seeking investment opportunities in machinery (33%) and building (31%).
Other areas of potential investment mentioned by farmers were renewable energy, technology and soil and environmental health.
Andy Venables, managing director of Hillsgreen, said:
“Farmers are actively exploring various investment opportunities to enhance their farm businesses, increase revenue streams, and improve the overall sustainability of their operations.”
“They do see potential growth areas within the sector and this emphasises the need for businesses to tailor support and resources to help farmers navigate and capitalise on these opportunities.”
Friends – main mental health support
With financial considerations having such a significant impact on farming businesses, it is unsurprising that poor mental health in farming is estimated to be 46% higher than in other occupations.
In times of need, it is fellow farmers and friends that most farmers look to for financial, mental health and practical support (15%).
However, this is closely followed by going online or using social media to find support (12%).
Farmers are more likely to use the internet when searching for advice before going directly to family or the large farming welfare charities and networks provided by the likes of RABI, FCN and NFU.
It is, however, anticipated that the use of online services will be to connect with family and friends or to access charitable and support networks provided by organisations.
YouTube and TikTok use increases
The report also analysed how farmers communicate with each other, with brands and with partners.
More than eight in ten (83%) of farmers use social media regularly, with six in ten (61%) using it daily, up from 45% last year.
Nearly one quarter (22%) are using TikTok either daily or weekly, but WhatsApp kept the top place in the channels most used by farmers.
Meanwhile, YouTube has seen a significant increase in daily use, too, with 37% using this online video-sharing platform every day, up from 14% from 2022.
Whilst farmers use social media heavily, it is websites they rely on the most to inform their buying decisions.
77% say websites hold the most influence when they are looking at making a purchase, followed by search engines (65%) and farming forums (49%).