Bigger Is Not Always Better and British is Often Best20th June 2019
Associate Director & Chartered Surveyor, Thomas Armstrong, shares his advice for farm businesses:
As I travel around farms undertaking site visits for a range of purposes from landlord and tenant advice, valuations and third-party access over land, many ask questions regarding the possible improvements which they should be making to their businesses with the onset of Brexit.
Increasingly, the general perception within agriculture is very often that to be a profitable business, the business needs to get bigger. However, this is not always the case and to disband the myths, I often have to put across different scenarios whereby bigger is not always better. I know that, in many instances, small, well-run, efficient units which have a tight control on costs can be and often are the most profitable.
Certainly, here in Cumbria, well-designed or adopted farm buildings with ease of access for machinery and cow welfare are fundamental in any livestock business. So, to allow the farming business to prosper after Brexit, farmers need to take advantage of the capital and revenue grants which are currently available now, to future-proof and make the business more efficient. These include:
- Countryside Stewardship Higher/Mid-Tier, with unlimited water capital grants
- Hedgerow and Boundary Grants – £10,000 for boundary repairs and renewals
- Countryside Productivity Grant Small Grant Scheme
Farmers should be looking at their businesses now and utilising the capital grants to aid the changes which are required for infrastructure, such as silage pits, slurry stores and feeding areas to obtain grants.
Farmers also need to reduce unwanted costs to the business, alongside trying to protect the environment. It is estimated that approximately £90 per hectare of fertiliser value ends up in the water courses, which is a frightening figure. So, as an industry, we need to reduce this, work with, educate and highlight to the general public, alongside the good things that farmers do for both the countryside and the environment.
The recent farmer bashings relating to greenhouse gas emissions and negative press with regards to red meat and the rise of veganism has, I feel, really emphasised the massive disconnect between farmers and the general public in terms of where their food comes from.
For me, the answer is education at all levels, and it is an element which is key to resolving these misconceptions. If we are to produce sustainable food, from sustainable and profitable businesses, consumers need to be educated to enable them to make the connection as to where the food comes from and how it is produced.
British produce is some of the very best in the world, produced in one of the most sustainable and natural environments in the world, so we need to let people know.
Published in Farmer Guardian, June 14 2019.