Let’s get straight to the point. If we exit without a deal it is highly likely that farming is going to feel the effect more than most. The table opposite speaks for itself. More than 90% of UK produced crops go to the EU.
There was once a time when farming was guided by the weather, the soil and no small amount of hard work. Unfortunately those days are now just a distant memory.
There is a phenomenon that increasingly has a great deal of bearing on our industry.
“We’re not going to mention the B word.”
Whether it’s referring to Brexit or Boris, that has been a common refrain at the start of most of the events we’ve been involved with or attending over the last few weeks.
From the CLA’s ‘Getting to Grips with Grapes’ seminars to a talk on policing at the South of England Show, no one wants to discuss the B word.
‘It’s time to go native.’
A recent cover of Country Life fascinated me. I’ll be honest, it’s usually the magazine’s property pages I flick to fi rst (for what, I hasten to add, is very much ‘lottery’ house shopping), but this grabbed my attention.
Now is a great time to invest in buildings – it can increase effi ciency, bring new opportunities and future-proof your business against whatever Brexit might bring. So is now the moment to seize the initiative and start building?
Favourable permitted development regulations, the availability of cheap fi nance and the contribution that buildings can play to a rural business’s bottom line are prompting many to explore the options.
In a world where much is unknown, here’s one thing we do know: Farms will see a huge drop in direct subsidy payments over the next nine years.
A 200ha (500 acre) farm received a BPS payment of £45,700 in 2018; dependent upon fl uctuations in the exchange rate, this will be similar in 2019 and 2020.
Farmers have incorporated non-food enterprises into their businesses for years. When “diversifi cation” was fi rst allied to agriculture it coincided with some major events; the introduction of milk quotas in 1984, the BSE crisis in the 90s and the downturn in arable profi tability in the late 80s and early 90s.
Bill and Ben are at their local. “The boss is still talking about going to 300 milkers. An extra 50 cows won’t make much difference to the workload but what happens if there is no one to buy the milk?” They chat about Brexit and conclude they know far too little about WTO or international trade agreements to form a meaningful opinion.
Winter is conference and farm discussion group season.
In the past, my attendance has always peaked to coincide with a review of the Common Agricultural Policy. It is perhaps no surprise then that I find myself attending these events on a frequent basis this winter.
Our industry is populated by SME entrepreneurs who aren’t in general afraid of anything, but mention succession – whether through inheritance or retirement – and the tension levels rise.
I recently had the privilege of speaking to a farmer discussion group about succession planning.