More than half of farmers and landowners – 60 per cent – have branded Brexit an ‘annoying aggravation’, but suggested it has had no real economic impact on their businesses.
The figure comes from Knight Frank’s Rural Sentiment Survey, which also shows landowners looking to improve their businesses are focusing on diversification and the environment, with climate change set to have a longer term influence on the industry than leaving the EU.
26 per cent of those surveyed wanted a no-deal ‘hard’ Brexit, with 25 per cent wanting a second referendum with a vote to remain alongside 2 per cent wanting a second referendum confirming the vote to leave.
Speaking at the launch of Knight Frank’s 2019 Rural Report, Andrew Shirley, head of rural research at the agency, said about half of landowners were planning changes to cope with the challenges and opportunities which may arise over the coming years.
Diversification was the top change people were making, with farmers also looking closely at tree planting and environmental schemes.
Mr Shirley said it was important diversification added value to existing businesses.
“It should take risk out of the supply chain,” he said, suggesting farmers could invest the last few years’ cash from the current subsidy regime into diversification projects.
He added those looking to diversify needed a unique selling point and to spot market trends, giving the example of whisky distillery Kilchoman Distillery, in Scotland, which was using malting barley grown on-farm and tapping into a growing sector.
Climate change is also set to have a big impact, with Ross Murray, chairman of rural asset management, highlighting younger people were taking it extremely seriously.
He said: “We need to look at energy efficiency, min-till and no till farming. There is huge investment and a change in mindsets required.”
Collaboration was the biggest opportunity over the coming years, according to head of agri consultancy Tom Heathcote.
He said: “It is bigger than co-operative farming, sharing of labour, machinery, assets.”
He added it was being driven by the shooting sector, but there was a growing recognition land could not be managed in isolation.
“They have been collaborating on large areas, they are now thinking about how they can on the environment,” he said.