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Farmers' assessment in focus in turbulent times

Agriculture is facing great challenges and is in a constant state of change. The focus is on the agricultural entrepreneurs and representatives of the sector, who take on the issues of the future in order to develop and implement targeted solutions. To this end, we as DLG want to accompany all players in the industry and support them with specialist work, trade fairs and testing. However, requirements and challenges are sometimes very short-lived and must be put to the test again and again in order to always keep an eye on the latest challenges.

The evaluation of the annual AGRIFUTURE INSIGHTS studies of the DLG helps us to do this. The aim of the study is to get an up-to-date picture of the mood regarding operational developments, innovation trends and external influencing factors in order to adjust the focus in our daily work and to determine adjustments in the programme for the coming months.

The AGRIFUTURE INSIGHTS studies have already produced a wide range of findings. After DLG members were surveyed exclusively in the study last 2020, the focus at the end of 2021 was on all participants in the agricultural sector, from farmers to consultants and scientists.

A total of 4,404 participants (of which 1,360 were international) took part in the study. The study was conducted in October/November 2021 and the current events with regard to the Ukraine war, which is contrary to international law, are not yet reflected here.

In order to understand the basic economic situation of agriculture, an economic classification of the farms was made. The self-assessment of the economic condition in the respective farm branches (compare graphic 1) made it clear that in particular the profitability and the (future) business development of the pig farming branch were assessed negatively. As a reminder, liquidity was still sufficient before the influence of the pandemic and African swine fever in 2020 due to good marketing, but this deteriorated considerably in 2021.

If we look not only at the economic situation but also at the current propensity of farms to invest, we see a very differentiated picture, especially when comparing Germany with international voices. The difference in the pig sector is conspicuous here (compare graphic 2). The uncertainties caused by the lack of framework conditions in Germany due to the changes in production processes and political and social demands lead to national obstacles in the propensity to invest of, for example, pig farms. The situation is very tense and an indicator of structural change in the German processing industry.

But arable farming also has to face new challenges with regard to volatile input and market prices in order to meet the objectives of the Common Agricultural Policy and the issues of sustainability. These are listed in a model in graphic 3. The focus here is primarily on increasing efficiency in production in order to be able to manage increased fertilizer and energy costs. However, the development of innovative business models was also very frequently listed and pursued by the participants. However, it is also striking that about 13 % of the farms are considering giving up the business because the framework conditions have become more complicated.

In addition to the findings for the technical work, it is essential for the DLG to understand which technical and constructional trends are consolidating in agriculture and where the future-oriented innovations can be found. This is particularly important in the technical support of events and trade fairs. The aim is to be at the cutting edge of topics and to always be a competent discussion partner for the players in the entire agricultural sector.

For example, trends in crop production, dairy farming and pig farming are of particular interest to all areas of the DLG. In arable farming, important trends in site-specific fertilisation and efficient tyres can be identified (see graphic 4). What is exciting in the analyses is that the answers in the groups of practical agriculture, consulting/science and industry differ from each other, sometimes considerably.

In dairy farming, trends in automation were listed with high importance. Automatic milking systems and automatic barn floor cleaning and feed delivery systems are the focus of DLG members as innovations in the area of work completion (compare graphic 5).

In pig farming, the focus of market participants is on husbandry systems (compare graphic 6). Particularly the topics of animal welfare and nutrient-adapted feeding are attributed great importance. Whether and to what extent the investments will be made, however, remains to be seen due to the catastrophic market situation in Germany (energy, feed, producer prices).

From these and other results of AGRIFUTURE INSIGHTS we want to gain our insights for the further technical work of the DLG. Currently, however, the influence of the war in Ukraine is a significant factor influencing the further development of the agricultural market. The exploding markets and the uncertainties about purchasing and sales opportunities are not only a burden for agriculture, but also for all sectors in the industry. The new study by AGRIFUTURE INSIGHTS in 2022 (still in the planning stage) will take these developments into account and then provide exciting findings in comparison with previous years. We hope that you will then again support the study and the professional work of the DLG with your professional assessment