Volatile weather drives a 'concerning' drop in farm incomes

Volatile weather is among the factors driving a predicted drop in income for some of East Anglia's key farming sectors, says a government report.

Defra has released the provisional figures for its 2020/2021 Farm Business Income forecast.

While grazing livestock and poultry farms are expected to see incomes rise, Defra anticipates a drop in average income of 43pc for cereal growers, 35pc for general cropping businesses and as much as 87pc for pig farms.

The report says challenging weather conditions, including the extremely wet autumn and winter of 2019 and the spring drought of 2020, were a key factor for arable farms, with lower yields and crop areas driving a reduction in output despite higher prices for many crops compared to the previous year.

Gary Ford, East Anglia regional director for the National Farmers' Union (NFU) said the new figures were "concerning" - especially as farm businesses face an imminent reduction in their Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) subsidies, which are being phased out in favour of a new post-Brexit Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS), still being developed, which will reward farmers for efforts to improve the landscape for nature.

"Volatility is something farmers are used to managing but it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with, especially while there is so much uncertainty about the future," he said.

"Industry uncertainty was revealed in the NFU's recent business survey, which showed confidence is already low among farmers, largely due to the changes in agricultural policy and the continued lack of clarity over the new schemes.

"It’s crucial that the Agricultural Transition Plan not only supports farming in the move from BPS to ELMS, but also provides the productivity improving measures, such as grants and investment in R&D, it has promised so we can build resilience, profitability and sustainability across all sectors."

Source: Eastern Daily Press