The top four concerns identified in a survey of NI farmers undertaken by Rural Support all relate to financial issues.
When asked to rank 18 different options – rising costs, financial pressures, price volatility and changes to farm subsidies came out on top; ahead of the likes of farm inspections, farm safety, labour shortages and rural crime.
The survey, which was funded by the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust, was completed by 460 people, of which 67% were full-time farmers.
Outlining the results at an event on Monday, Gillian Reid from Rural Support said that when compared to a similar survey in 2020, it was clear farm finances have now risen up the list to dominate concerns.
The survey also asked farmers about the number of hours worked, with 78% of full-time farmers doing more than 41 hours per week and 45% more than 61 hours. Among part-time farmers, 16% work more than 41 hours.
“That is absolutely shocking. Employees can’t work more than 48 hours per week, and that is in place for health and safety reasons,” said Reid.
On many farms, in an attempt to make ends meet, farmers will often take on a second or third enterprise, however, that can simply add to pressure on individuals.
“In my experience, the more enterprises you have the more demand there is on you,” she added.
Long working hours also mean some farmers rarely take time away, with 35% getting off the farm less than once a month, or never.
“That is not enough – you need to get off the farm now and again,” said Reid.
The survey also identified concerns around mental health, with over one quarter of farmers potentially suffering from mild or clinical depression, and higher rates among some younger age groups.
On issues around farm succession, 43% of farmers don’t have a will in place.