UK farm incomes hit by weather, says DEFRA

Farm incomes in England tumbled last year as a result of inclement weather conditions affecting cereal and livestock sectors, according to Defra

Cereal farm incomes declined by more than 25% in 2012/2013
Cereal farm incomes declined by more than 25% in 2012/2013

Farm incomes in England tumbled last year as a result of inclement weather conditions affecting cereal and livestock sectors, according to Defra.

On farm data for England for the year end of February 2013 reveals dairy farm business income declined by approximately 40%. Although actual income increased due to higher milk prices being achieved, poor weather conditions resulted in an increase in feed costs.

The 2012 poor grass and cereal crops coincided with a global feed spike as dairy and livestock farmers sought to supplement protein in the herd diet. The situation was exacerbated by the severe drought conditions suffered in the US, the country’s worst drought in 60 years, resulting in pressure within the global market for high protein feeds.

The initial UK milk price increases of approximately two pence per litre (ppl) were wiped-out by an estimated 4ppl increase in winter feed costs owing to the soaring price of protein. The same situation applied to beef and sheep farmers, resulting in cheaper alternative protein sources being sought to supplement diets.

Defra data highlights sharp a decline in all sectors of English agriculture which is expected to have a continuing effect into the 2013 and 2014 farming cycles. Mixed farm incomes were down by almost 50%. Cereal farm incomes declined by more than 25% in 2012/13 as the yield quality of cereals and oilseed were affected by the inclement weather conditions.

Northumberland-based fourth generation farmer and agricultural journalist Bruce Jobson said the decline in 2012 to 2013 farm incomes was not unexpected.

“UK farmers have been subjected to drought conditions that affected grass and cereal yield as well as quality during 2012, and in 2013 farmers have encountered the wettest spring in 100 years, followed by drought conditions,” he said.

“Looking forward to 2013-2014, the market does not appear to offer substantial increases in farm income. However, tenant farmers continue to be placed under increasing pressure, more so than land-owning counterparts.

“As farm land values continue to increase to record levels, landowners have greater headroom as a result of increasing net worth.

“Tenant farmers, without the security of increasing farm land prices, have also suffered a further drop in real terms with a decline in Single Farm Payment value.”

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