Farm to Fork Summit: Poll reveals farmers more worried about climate change, and show stronger support for net zero than public

Farmers see extreme weather as biggest threat to UK’s food security over the next ten years

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By Tom Lancaster

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New polling [1] conducted by More in Common for the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) has revealed major concern amongst farmers and former farmers [2] about climate change, and strong support for net zero. These poll findings come as farmers and their representatives meet the Prime Minister at Downing Street for the second Farm to Fork summit.

Overall, 72% of farmers in the poll were worried about climate change, slightly higher than the general public at 70%. It also found that 72% of farmers supported reaching the UK Government’s target to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, slightly more than the 65% support the poll found amongst the public more widely.

The polling comes following one of the wettest winters on record, and the wettest 18 months since 1836, which has had a major impact on farmers ability to establish crops. Previous ECIU analysis estimated that the UK harvest of key arable crops could be down by as much as a fifth [3], knocking nearly a tenth off headline self-sufficiency [4]. This context perhaps explains why the polling also found that farmers felt extreme weather would be the biggest threat to food security in the next ten years, with 46% of farmers identifying this as an issue. 60% of those farmers polled flagged that climate change will have a negative impact on their business

The poll also found that 62% of farmers had changed how they farm in response to recent increases in extreme weather. For whom it was relevant, 60% had recently experienced difficulty in drilling their crops due to extreme weather, 57% had struggled with harvests and 55% had experienced more difficulty in managing their livestock.

When asked about the overall challenges farmers face nationally, 39% identified the prices paid for farm produce, 34% said energy and fuel costs, 33% said extreme weather and 31% said the cost of exporting since Brexit, with the same percentage identifying the costs of inputs such as fertilisers. Only 16% selected the new environmental land management payments being introduced in England and Wales, suggesting that these were not a source of major discontent for farmers during farm protests earlier in the year.

In a further sign of shifting political allegiances amongst the farming community, 35% of the farmers polled said they would support Labour at the next election, against 32% who would support the Conservatives, down from 41% in 2019.

1. Polling conducted by More in Common between 16th April 2024 and 6th May 2024.

2. 434 farmers and former farmers were selected from people responding to the question “Do you currently work in farming or agriculture?” with “Yes” or “No, but have previously worked in farming or agriculture”

3. UK food security: winter washout could cut harvests by a fifth

4. Wet winter could cut UK food self sufficiency by about a tenth