Paul Rice, head of agriculture and farming at Wright Hassall, warned ’doing more of the same’ would not yield the same results
Farmers and related services will have to be more agile and resourceful than ever before as subsidies start to decline, a leading agricultural lawyer has warned.
Paul Rice, head of the agriculture and farming at solicitors Wright Hassall, was speaking at the firm’s Agricultural Christmas Conference The future of farming in a post-Brexit world, at Stoneleigh Park.
Mr Rice said: "I get slightly troubled by the constant labelling of farming and related services being part of the rural economy. We are actually an intrinsic and important part of the UK economy, but sadly one which is often overlooked by Government.
"The industry has not, perhaps, been vocal enough in advocating its worth in real and added value terms to the country’s economy.
"It is worth remembering the UK food industry is bigger than the UK automotive and aviation sectors combined. In fact, the CLA Rural Business 2030 report said £13 billion is, on average, invested by rural businesses each year, which is double the amount seen in the car industry.
"As with all industries, we are operating in a time of general uncertainty, but one thing is certain; farmers and related services will have to be more agile and resourceful than ever before as direct payments to the sector start to decline."
Mr Rice said while assurances had been made about subsidies continuing to be paid after the UK left the EU, it was doubtful future funding would be anywhere near its current level.
The conference heard how ‘just doing more of the same’ would not ensure the same results as the political and economic environment shifts.
"The industry has to be on a quest of constant improvement," added Mr Rice.
"This might be through maximising yields by improving soil health, moving to spring cropping and operating more efficiently, it might be through machinery sharing agreements with neighbouring farmers or joining buying groups.
"Many farmers, certainly in the Midlands, have diversified, but there is still masses more which could be done to supplement income. This should be explored – and explored now."