Brexit will accelerate changes that have been under way in agriculture for decades, and the industry must look ahead and adapt quickly to make the most of potential opportunities.
“Brexit is a prompt to do many things we should be doing anyway, such as improving productivity and competing for world trade,” says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers.
“This is the biggest peacetime task since 1945 and it’s a task that’s a lot bigger than the Government alone. If the industry wishes to take control of its destiny it requires effective and practical leadership at every level – from top organisations down to individual farming businesses,” he adds. “We need to analyse situations, develop ideas, and have direction to manage change effectively.”
At political level, there is a real drive for a more competitive economy, warns Mr Moody. “There is huge pressure for change – more challenges from the market and greater expectations on farming businesses. Area payments have held back structural transformation for years, so there is a lot of pent up change out there.”
Farmers will have to decide if they are commodity producers, and therefore focus hard on reducing costs of production and improving efficiencies, says Mr Moody. “If you can’t compete on price, then everything else is an opportunity: Adding value, niche crops, more segmented markets. Farmers have formidably good collateral in land, so can raise the investment needed to diversify. It’s not part-time farming, it’s multi-faceted earning.”
Historically, the CAP was not about the support payments to farmers that it has become, and there is no reason why the successor policy should simply be income payments, adds Mr Moody. “Policy and support can be tailored to fulfill future needs – it’s about how you operate the sector. We need to be looking at investing in marketing, innovation, the environment, research, and resilience.
“The CAAV is working closely with the Government in discussing future policy, while agricultural valuers are ideally placed to help farmers and owners review their businesses for the future challenges,” he adds.
“Our profession has always adapted to changing economic and legislative scenarios, whether that’s the introduction of Farm Business Tenancies, new tax regimes, or renewable energy options. There is going to be more demand for broadly based, practical professional advice across the whole rural economy, and we must be at the cutting edge of any such developments to ensure we can deliver that.”
For more information visit www.caav.org.uk.