Strong leaders are needed to see agriculture through the major changes that are now starting, and well-equipped advisers will be key, according to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).
Good businesses are not dependant on what the Government tells them to do, but instead on the skills, investment decisions and innovation of their owners, says Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the CAAV. Speaking at the CAAV conference he highlighted the industry potential if the right people are given access to land.
“There is an important change to come for small and medium sized landowners through de-linking support payments and this will provide an opportunity for new or existing land managers to develop forward-thinking and productive businesses to combat today’s issues.”
Education is a key element of building a better society and should be a vital tool in combating climate change – something valuers are playing a role in. Though it’s only possible to make informed guesses about the future, the mitigation of and adaption to climate change should be a key part of knowledge exchange, said Victoria Edwards, CEO at the Ernest Cook Trust.
“We need to think more on a community level how we equip people with the capability to deal with the future rather than specific knowledge. In our attempts to tackle climate change, we need to put efforts into improving the welfare of the entire nation and that goes hand in hand with education.”
But the industry is already adapting to combat the climate issue, as Rob Sanders, co-founder at Glas Data outlined. Properly collecting and using data can catch disasters before they happen – allowing for farmers to be proactive and not reactive, he said. It can also save time, as well as discovering patterns that allow for increased productivity. “It can improve the financial top and bottom lines,” he said. However, data needs to be democratised so it can be of use to all, otherwise it could become meaningless noise.
One organisation which is collecting and sharing for the benefit of a local community and the wider environment is the Green Alliance. Jim Elliott, senior policy adviser at the Green Alliance, explained the benefits of collaborative environmental and land management policies in its Eden Valley Project.
The Alliance is establishing a system whereby private – and potentially public – funding can be directed at environmental improvements undertaken by local farmers. This also benefits the local community, and provides farmers with an alternative income source. Benefits could include flood management, greater biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
“There is potential for futureproofing environmental payments and outcomes – linking public money to the development of the public economy,” said Mr Elliot.
Proactive land managers are integral to allowing projects like this to get off the ground, something Dafydd Wynne-Finch, estate owner and farmer in North Wales, is well aware of. With numerous tenants across his two estates at Pentrefoelas and Cefnamwlch, Mr Wynne-Finch is reviewing how things are done in order to improve the local environment. “We all know that biodiversity levels have gone down massively. So we have been studying how we can change this over the past 12 months and are beginning to experiment.”
Mr Wynne-Finch hopes to be able to increase invertebrates and subsequently birdlife across his estates by converting it to regenerative farming practices. “I think we can achieve a lot but we need good people and for good people you need good communities.”
A large part of embracing change is getting the right people; something which the lump sum exit scheme for farmers could help with added Mr Moody. “We must be concerned with getting the right people onto the right land, as the top quartile of cereal farmers are earning £200/ha and the bottom quartile are losing over £300/ha without subsidy.”
Farmers need to use the transition period to find opportunities beyond commodity sales and to look at the environment as an enterprise, he said. “It might provide a margin to unprofitable farming.
“Our role, as valuers, is reviewing and acting. When a farmer needs help in the next few years, they need to know they can get help, guidance and assistance in making and implementing decisions.”
For more information visit www.caav.org.uk.