Post-Brexit business uncertainty and lower on-farm investments were a cause for concern with Scottish farmers.
One in five Scottish farmers and crofters fear they may have to take early retirement due to post-Brexit business uncertainty.
The Scotland Rural College (SRUC) survey, published today in Rural Scotland in Focus 2016, found more than half of those questioned raised concerns about lower on-farm investment and its potential to leave ‘negative consequences’ for the wider rural community.
The report argued more control should be given to young people who were ready to ‘grab opportunities’ and adapt to new business approaches.
SRUC senior agricultural economist Steven Thomson said: “Brexit is clearly causing uncertainty – and some farmers have told us that means they are thinking of retiring earlier than planned.
“Scottish agriculture is used to change. Some of that has been in response to market demands and environmental pressure, but a key driver has been the various CAP regimes.
“Under Brexit, we don’t know what will replace it yet but assume there will be budgetary pressures - meaning innovation and new approaches will be key to making farming more resilient.”
One third of farmers surveyed also said post-Brexit will mean they will have to increase off-farm income or diversify their businesses.
Report authors said a lack of evidence and knowledge had fed ‘false assumptions’ that the ’rural economy means agriculture’ and that cities were ‘the only engines for growth’.
The report found how many farmers and landowners still do not see the value of integrating more woodland into their farming businesses, while some foresters do not see the need to increase the resilience of their woodland for the long term.
It said farming and forestry tended to ’dominate rural policy discussion’ but urged policy-makers to look beyond the land-based sector to the 37,000 small and medium sized enterprises in rural Scotland which operate outside the primary sector.
Report editor Professor Sarah Skerratt said documents like the Scottish Government Future of Scottish Agriculture could provide a starting point for establishing a rural strategy once Britain has left the EU.
She said: “Rural communities and businesses are resourceful, innovative and cooperative.
“These are qualities that all those involved in the rural economy must adopt.
“But to be effective it must be within a coherent, overarching strategy, taking account of the possible conflicts and properly monitored so it can be adapted based on real evidence.”