Farmers in England are more likely to want Government cash to be spent on protecting the environment than improving productivity and competitiveness, according to new research from Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL).
The study, with 500 respondents, found farmers ranked animal welfare (50.4 per cent), habitat restoration (41 per cent) and biodiversity conservation (38.2 per cent) as ‘more deserving’ of Government funding than food productivity and competitiveness (38 per cent).
Pollution prevention was rated most deserving of funding (56.2 per cent), with soil conservation and protection of crop, tree, plant and bee health on 37.2 per cent and 35 per cent respectively.
The survey also found younger farmers, aged 21-30, were around two times more likely to take environmental action than those over 60.
Helen Cheshire, senior farming adviser at the Woodland Trust and chair of WCL’s agriculture group, said: “Farmers and conservationists are on the same page overall for the future of farming.
“Farmers are key guardians of our environment, and this research shows they know it is vital to our farming future to prioritise fixing the natural resources farms rely on.”
Other findings from the survey highlighted farmers’ struggle with increased costs and falling profit margins, which were affecting 51 per cent of respondents.
Increased weather volatility, such as drought and flooding, was the second most commonly reported problem, hitting 40 per cent of those surveyed.
Brexit uncertainty was cited as the biggest barrier to improving farm businesses, with 41 per cent of farmers struggling to access capital and a further 41 per cent finding it difficult to make changes without knowing what future policy would look like and how much funding would be available.
This finding comes just days after the Farmer Network warned Brexit uncertainty and a lack of grants were causing a dip in productivity on farm.
Tom Lancaster, acting head of land use at the RSPB and vice chair of WCL’s agriculture group, said: “This research shows lack of access to funds and uncertainty over the future, particularly around Brexit, are major barriers which are preventing farmers doing more for our natural world.
“Farmers and environment charities are united in wanting certainty over future funding for nature-friendly farming.”