Farmers stand to gain from changes to land use in UK​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

With the future likely to hold ever greater competition for the use of land in the UK, farmers will be in a position to grab new opportunities to generate revenue, a leading consultant has claimed.
Michael Haverty of AndersonsMichael Haverty of Andersons
Michael Haverty of Andersons

Agriculture in its many forms still accounts for over three-quarters of land in the UK and farm consultants, Andersons, have reminded farmers that they are the main occupiers of a scarce resource which is in growing demand.

“Although it may not seem like it, the majority of the UK’s land area of just over 24m ha is still primarily used for agriculture,” said Michael Haverty, partner and senior research consultant with the firm.

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Speaking in advance of the annual round of seminars over the coming months, he said that farmers had been using their land for more than food production for many years.

“This includes diversification and managing land for the environment – either as part of a scheme or simply because that is what they choose to do.”

However, he said that new demands on land brought a wider range of options.

“But the difficult part for farmers is turning these opportunities (many of which are still in their infancy) into cash.”

These included options such as tree planting and peat bog restoration on the poorer uplands, carbon farming to cash in on the development of trading in this area and even biodiversity enhancement to offset the new requirements often placed on commercial developers to provide net biodiversity gains before projects receive planning permission.

Stating that while the government could be looked upon as the buyer-of-last-resort, through the planned environmental schemes, Haverty said this might not be lucrative enough to replace declining income streams like the BPS.

“Private buyers of ‘land management’ may have deeper pockets and be more flexible in their requirements,” but he added it was possible that farmers would have to work harder to satisfy these customers than they would with government schemes.

“Overall, farmers will need to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset and see their land as a resource that can be maximised in a number of ways, rather than just through farming,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Defra yesterday launched The Lump Sum Exit Scheme for farmers in England and Wales who wish to retire from the industry.

The scheme is due to open in April and the application period will run until the end of September. The payment will be based on the average direct payments made to the farmer for the 2019 to 2021 Basic Payment Scheme years, with the capping of the reference figure meaning that farmers could receive up to a maximum of around £100,000.

Vice president of the English NFU, Tom Bradshaw said the introduction of the first domestic agricultural policy for more than 40 years would see many producers making difficult decisions about the future of their farm business.

And while he welcomed the clarity provided by the scheme would help make such decisions, he said the details would need to be carefully examined for complex cases and tenant farmers.



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