DEFRA 2019 Farm Practices Survey – key points from UK farms

On the 4th April the DEFRA 2019 Farm Practices Survey for England was released. This covers data from a sample of about 2,800 farms which was gathered in October 2018. Given the changes in prospect for the industry, the picture which the survey paints is by no means wholly encouraging.

Speed of innovation within the UK Agriculture Sector

Certainly, there is some evidence that businesses are looking at ways of improving profitability by innovation. 54% of those sampled had taken steps in this direction within the last 12 months, and a further 33% were intending to introduce significant change within the next year. Larger farms and dairy farms were marginally the most likely to innovate, and general grazing units the least likely.

There was also encouraging news on business management, with 75% of farms using market data to help in their pricing decisions and 88% managing risk to some extent (although 40% felt they needed better tools in this respect).

Farmers missing out on the benefits of collaboration 

In other ways the survey findings were less optimistic. When looking at collaboration with others in the industry, only 29% of the sample were in buying groups, 19% were sharing machinery and 12% sharing labour. On the livestock side, 22% were keeping livestock for other farmers and 12% were contract rearing.  As the withdrawal of direct subsidies moves closer, this must be one area where asset usage can be optimised and costs reduced relatively easily, and it is disappointing that these practices seem to be falling in popularity.

Making Tax Digital roll-out in farms 

Finally, and given that MTD for VAT started on 1st April, the usage of accounting software should give rise to concern. Only 38% of those surveyed are using accounting software, which is exactly same figure as that found in MHA survey carried out in January 2019.

Tracey Richardson at MHA Moore and Smalley commented:

“The survey shows some good news on innovation. Co-operative working in the North West can sometimes be difficult depending on the type of farm and land, but it can be ‘quick win’ for those looking to cut costs. We are also finding a low uptake of software in the farming sector in preparation for Making Tax Digital. We are working with all our clients that fall under Making Tax Digital to find the right solution for them. We will see how this develops over the next few months but ultimately there will be penalties for those who do not comply.”

Contact us to find out how we can help your rural business

For further information on this subject or to discuss how we can help with your business and its fututre plans. Please contact Tracey Richardson at or call 01539 729727.