I’m sure many of you will have heard in the news over the past week about a collapse in the confidence of farmers across Wales and England. 

This survey, which spoke to nearly 800 NFU and NFU Cymru members between 21st November 2023 and 5th January 2024, shows that short and mid-term confidence is at its lowest since we began undertaking this survey in 2010. Because of this lack of confidence, production intentions have also plummeted with all farming sectors expecting to decrease production over the next year.

The relentless wet weather has played a big part, with 82% of respondents saying their farm businesses have suffered fairly negative (52%) or very negative (30%) impacts. The survey was undertaken in November and December 2023. Since then, farmers have been battling relentless heavy rain through January, February, March and much of April. Were the survey undertaken today, the results would be even worse.

The survey also showed that farm business profitability has also fallen, with 65% of respondents saying their profits are declining. 

These figures paint a stark picture. Confidence has collapsed after months of devastating flooding, unsustainably high production costs and low market returns. Here is Wales our farmers are seriously worried about the phasing out of the Basic payment scheme and the transition to the new Sustainable Farming Scheme that currently has no long-term stability mechanism to underpin Welsh farming businesses. Welsh farmers are struggling to meet the huge investment costs to meet the requirements of the all-Wales NVZ regulations and bovine TB continues to cause untold havoc for many hundreds of family farms across large parts of the country. 

Any business owner knows that without confidence and steady cash flow, businesses will struggle to re-invest and remain viable. It is so important that we can restore confidence in our sector so that Welsh farmers can continue doing what they do best – supplying high quality sustainable food from Wales. With food supply chains under threat across the world as a result of geo-political tensions and the increasing impact of climate change, as a nation we cannot afford to lose our ability to feed itself.

There are solutions that our government in Cardiff can adopt, and we look to our new Cabinet Secretary to consider the concerns raised by Welsh farmers and the food supply chain during the recent SFS consultation process and make changes that will support a profitable, productive and progressive food and farming sector in Wales. 

With a Westminster general election also looming, the UK political parties will rightly be focused on how to reverse the cost-of-living crisis, and with food inflation still high and families struggling with food bills, supporting homegrown food production must be part of this.

While we are seeing record lows in farmer confidence, however, I never cease to be amazed by our fantastic farmers; their passion, drive and ingenuity. Innate tenacity means we do not give up easily and we will continue to do all we can to contribute to our national interests – producing more sustainable, affordable food, driving economic growth, providing jobs and delivering on our environmental ambitions.

NFU Cymru is committed to working with politicians in Cardiff and Westminster to create the conditions that will help to restore confidence in our sector.