Farmers are now feeling less optimistic about the future than they did in 2014, according to a survey conducted in partnership with Lancashire accountancy firm Moore and Smalley.
The survey, undertaken at the agricultural show LAMMA 2015, is based on interviews with over 100 farmers from across the region.
It was conducted by MHA, a UK-wide group of accountancy and business advisory firms, of which Moore and Smalley is one of nine UK members.
Findings of the survey showed:
n There is a continued desire for growth and diversification amongst the farming community, but less optimism than in 2014
n There is an increase in the number of farmers undertaking co-operative farming arrangements
n Succession planning is of great concern for one in 10 – noticeably higher than in 2014
The reduced optimism reflects the reduction in cereal prices in recent months, although 59 per cent of respondents (down from 69 per cent in 2014) still predicted overall growth.
Twenty three per cent expected moderate to high growth.
This year’s survey also saw a four per cent reduction to 49 per cent among those hoping to increase acreage over the next 12 months.
Concerns remain about the availability of land – and prices continue to be a barrier.
For 2015, diversification is on the agenda for more farmers (up to 55 per cent from 40 per cent last year), including an upsurge in interest in harnessing renewable energy sources.
Liz Cliffe, head of the farming and rural business team at Preston-based Moore and Smalley, said: “It is good to see there’s still a healthy optimism for growth and the desire to diversify among farmers.
“However, the survey indicated that 11 per cent of those surveyed felt that succession planning is still ‘of great concern’, which is noticeably higher than in 2014.
“With such a high concentration of family businesses passed on from one generation to the next and with the current favourable tax rules, succession planning is a vital consideration in securing the future of a farming business.”
Most farmers participating in co-operative farming arrangements are involved in contracting.
This year’s survey indicates that 66 per cent of respondents now undertake contracting.
That’s a total increase of 10 per cent compared with last year’s results.