Scores of farmers are already seeking to boost their business resilience and become more self-reliant as Brexit uncertainty soars to new heights, a Farmers Guardian survey has revealed.
With little detail on the future trading environment outside the EU and against a backdrop of political turmoil which drew to a crescendo in Westminster this week, producers are taking proactive measures to future-proof their operations.
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The survey also highlights that while the Conservative Party lurches from one conflict to the next, the day-to-day realities of farming continue, with the scourge of rural crime on a par with concerns over Brexit.
Unsurprisingly, the State of UK Agriculture report, which garnered more than 1,100 responses from farmers across the UK (see full breakdown on pages 16/17), shows business confidence is fairly high currently, but takes a dip when looking beyond March 2019.
Phil Bicknell, AHDB director of market intelligence, said as much as the industry focused on potential policy implications, ‘it is the decisions we make on-farm which will determine our future’.
“This survey points to farmers gathering information, reviewing goals and budgets, and anticipating potential market changes,” said Mr Bicknell.
“Importantly, they have taken action accordingly.”
Will Gemmill, head of farming for Strutt & Parker, said: “One of the most logical courses of action is to consider ways to grow profits from other sources by diversifying, but farmers should not overlook steps they might be able to take to make their core farming business more resilient.
“These include collaboration, adopting risk management strategies and greater use of technology and data to improve efficiency.”
The survey pointed to a lack of information about the Government’s new payments for public good scheme, which CLA chief land use policy adviser Susan Twining said Ministers must take heed of.
“They must provide clarity as early as possible on how the system will work in practice for farmers and landowners, what payment rates will be, and how the new system can be introduced smoothly and in good time to offset reductions in Common Agricultural Policy payments.”
She added only profitable farms could meet their ambitions for environmental enhancement and other public goods, while also grasping new opportunities Brexit may bring.
Graham Redman, partner, The Andersons Centre, said farmers should seek to ‘be the best and most competitive in their own marketplace’ with a focus on adding value to produce for export.