The National Sheep Association (NSA) is paying high regard to Rural Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI) and its work on the Big Farming Survey, where results have revealed that stress, depression, and anxiety are all common features of farming communities even though over 50% still feel optimistic for the future.

The work highlights the challenges of a sector facing huge changes in trade, policy, and farm support programmes, and dealing with high levels of regulation, compliance and inspection.

NSA Chief Executive, Phil Stocker, commented:

“There are positives that can be drawn from this important work – more than 50% of respondents feel positive about the future, and nearly 60% believe their businesses will be viable over the next five years – but it’s difficult not to be very concerned about many of the findings.

Levels of depression and anxiety are worryingly high with well in excess of 50% of women reporting anxiety, and high levels of reported mental and physical challenges affecting farmers’ ability to complete their work efficiently.

Much has been done to break down the stigma of mental health in recent years but it has to be recognised that farmers and their families, often running small businesses and working in isolation, are being put under immense pressure by change and uncertainty as well as never ending volumes of red tape and unpredictability.

Covid has amplified these problems and has led to greater levels of isolation.

Stocker continued:

Health and mental and physical fitness have to be given far greater consideration and while our industry is paying ever-growing attention to improving the health and welfare of their livestock we should remember that this won’t work in the long term unless the people involved are equally well and fit.

“On behalf of NSA, I would like to thank RABI for conducting this survey and highlighting that far more needs to be done to value the work of farmers and to ease the regulatory burden they are dealing with.”