Succession was often such a thorny issue that many farming businesses were put off even opening discussions on the matter.
Speakers at an NFU conference seminar entitled ‘Future proofing your farming business through people’, said while it was a difficult topic to approach, the sooner it could be tackled, the better.
Almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of respondents to a digital poll during the seminar said they had no succession plan, with 61 per cent saying this was because it was just too difficult to discuss.
Somerset farmer James Small, who had farmed in partnership with his parents and uncle and aunt, said: “It is not easy to talk about these types of things because you are talking about what happens when one of you leaves the business or dies.
“What I did was to base the discussion on what would happen if I passed away so we could look at the options.”
Mr Small said it took two years to get everyone in the business to a good place. And only when they had agreed the strategy they wanted to use did they get professional advisers involved.
He said by getting things in order it meant that when a business partner did die, the others could focus on handling their grief, safe in the knowledge the business aspects were in order.
Abi Reader, vice-chairwoman of the NFU Cymru milk board, joked that having a debate with a militant vegan at her kitchen table for a BBC radio item had been easier than broaching the issue of succession with her dad and uncle.
However, succession became a reality seven years ago when her father was taken ill and she needed to grasp the business in partnership with her uncle. She has now been a partner in the farm for two years.
She added: “If in doubt, at least try and manage your own succession. I saved up some money and also put some into a house, so if it [the farm] went wrong I would have somewhere to live. That might seem drastic, but it gave me a buffer zone.”
Ms Reader now plays a key role in the farm business and also the NFU agenda in Wales.
TOP SUCCESSION TIPS
Maximise tax benefits
Involve the whole family
Source: Sean McCann, NFU Mutual