Saturday, 20 October 2018

Brexit: and the future of farming in Devon

Farming faces a very different future:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the most radical recasting of agricultural policy in 60 years
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Defra 'working on contingencies'
Futures Forum: Brexit: and agriculture: a conversation with Neil Parish MP, chair of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs committee

In Cornwall, farmers are worrying about the post-Brexit world:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Cornish farmers calling the goverment's temporary agricultural worker visa scheme a 'sop'

As they are in Devon:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Devon farmer saying "80% of farm businesses becoming no longer viable"

Perhaps the future needs to be grasped:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and leaving the EU providing an opportunity for UK agriculture

Clinton Devon Estates Director John Varley presents his thoughts on farming in Devon post Brexit:

Where there is uncertainty there is opportunity. The biggest risk is waiting to see what happens. Devon’s agriculture is misunderstood and under-valued. Many of these trends we can see coming and we should be turning to our advantage; the advantage of our ultimate consumers, society and our natural environment.

F&FF - Technical and Business Information

Here are some highlights from John Varley's presentation to the Devon Farm Management Association: 

Taking advantage of the breakpoint – a perspective on the choices Devon farmers will have to make over the next five years

The first thing to say is that Brexit presents Devon agriculture with an opportunity – I voted to remain so we could sort out the EU from the inside –however, now we are leaving we should be free to expedite a competitive and vibrant agriculture industry. It is clear that an “agricultural breakpoint” is occurring – potentially on a scale not seen since at least the 1970s, the first time in over 40 years that the British Government has an opportunity to take control of agricultural policy. But whilst most commentators are focussing on Brexit and the choices we have in how we untangle ourselves from the Common Agricultural Policy, there are a number of linked “disrupters” which may shape the future for those who own and manage land-based businesses.

Disrupter number 1
Consumers, markets and trade:
Consumers are the most important stakeholder for food and farmers...

Disrupter number 2
Business competitiveness and productivity:
In 2015/16 over half of farms earned less than £20,000 and 42% of farms did not make a profit. Income per worker remains only £19,000 a year. A set of statistics which would make most investors, not looking for tax breaks, steer well clear...

Disrupter number 3
Rural economy priorities:
There are obvious synergies between agriculture and rural economies, which is why agriculture and its value chains remain an important contributor to rural employment. It is no longer the biggest employer though and in terms of Gross Value Added, agriculture, forestry and fishing combined represent just 2% of the overall rural economy and 0.55% nationally. Is GVA the right measure for our industry’s contribution?
My experience is that in Devon agriculture has been undervalued by policy makers for its contribution to the local economy...

Disrupter number 4:
Environmental awareness and society’s wishes:
Agriculture dominates land use in the UK. Farmers, foresters and land managers have the ability to shape – positively and negatively – the environmental costs and benefits resulting from their management and make a huge difference to the value and quality of this country’s natural capital...

The opportunity for Devon’s farmers

Devon agriculture has some of the greatest potential to deliver what society wants. However, research in 2017 by Indepen indicates that farmers’ business confidence remains low with high debt and declining capital investment. Indepen also felt that post Brexit, a new agricultural regime: “would have differential effects on land prices and rents: the effects could vary between areas focussing
predominantly on food production and those where the outcomes include a wider range of public goods”.

Across Devon with our natural capital, quality soils, grass and climate we should be able to do the double – produce food and enhance the nation’s natural capital – confidence needs to rise though and investment increase, to capture this ground. We should be working with, amongst others, producers, water companies, LEPS, universities, colleges and influential local politicians, in making the Brexit breakpoint a success for Devon agriculture.

As leaders of farming enterprises, Devon farmers should now be seen as an important part of the solution for this county’s economic and social health – an industry which is best in class globally, valued for its underpinning of Devon’s unique environmental economy and an industry attracting the best talent, skills, technology and investment. In a county which is one of the UK’s richest in terms of bio diversity and natural capital.

Estates Director John Varley presents his thoughts on farming in Devon post Brexit - Clinton Devon Estates

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