Brexit poll – were UK farmers in or out?

23 June, 2017

National Farm Research Unit on-going survey shows narrow Remain majority, large swathe of undecided farmers

Ahead of the EU Referendum on 23rd June, the National Farm Research Unit has run a quick survey on: Are Farmers In or Out?

Thank you to all that have participated in our survey already. We will continue to update the results here up to the date of the Referendum.

The results currently show a narrow majority of 38% of farmers who believe remaining in the EU is the right decision for the farming industry, versus 34% of farmers who think the industry will be better off leaving. The margin is tight, with just 4 percentage points between the decided farmers and almost a third of farmers not offering a preference.

Fig 1.From a Farming Perspective should we stay or leave the EU?

Chart 1

Source: NFRU Poll with 2,337 farmers participating in the survey. Nationwide votes have been extrapolated to 142,280 farm businesses and corrected for by farm size and types.

When asked why they were Out, farmers expressed frustration with the EU, arguing that the industry would be better off without rules made in Brussels. One arable farmer with 100 hectares in Essex says Britain is currently “so inhibited by EU rules and regulations, and should be more independent”.

Responses from farmers in favour of remaining reflected a concern that if Britain left, there would be increased uncertainty regarding agricultural trade and subsidy support. One farmer said he “cannot see any benefits leaping into the unknown” and that “for every pound we put in, Agriculture receives five back—it’s purely economic”.

Forbes Elworthy, CEO of Map of Agriculture, commented, “Interestingly, aside from the headline number that more farmers feel that we should remain, we have discovered that a higher proportion of operators of smaller sized farms favour Out, relative to those managing larger farms, who tend to favour Remain. This is a bit of a surprise. A further fascinating result is that there is one sector where this is reversed. In the dairy sector, farmers milking more than 300 cows are proportionally more for Brexit, whereas among farmers milking fewer cows, proportionally more are in favour of Remain.” Elworthy speculated that this may be because “subsidies are a smaller proportion of revenues for more intensive livestock farming systems”.

Fig 2. Dairy Farmer Preferences: From a Farming Perspective should we stay or leave the EU?

Chart 2

Elworthy commented further: “What is most important is for farmers to think carefully about what this decision means for British farmers, for our country and for Europe, and to get out and vote”.