Farming leaders urged to adapt and grasp Brexit nettle

Brexit will unleash a dam of pent-up change on the UK's agricultural sector, meaning the industry will require outstanding leaders to cope with what was yesterday described as the 'biggest peace-time task since 1945'.

Farming needs 'effective and practical leadership at every level', said Jeremy Moody. Picture: Johnston Press
Farming needs 'effective and practical leadership at every level', said Jeremy Moody. Picture: Johnston Press

Stating that area payments had been holding back structural change within the farming industry for years, one of the country’s leading specialist advisers said that there was huge pressure for change and, at the political level, a real drive for a more competitive economy.

“And this will mean more challenges from the market and greater expectations on farming businesses,” said Jeremy Moody, secretary and adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).

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In a call to the industry to realise that the undertaking was far larger than anything the government could manage on its own, Moody took a different tack from those who suggested that Brexit should be viewed as just another factor outside the farmer’s control.

“If the industry wishes to take control of its destiny it requires effective and practical leadership at every level – we need to analyse situations, develop ideas, and have direction to manage change effectively,” he said.

While he admitted that Brexit was “a prompt” to do many things which the industry should already be doing, such as improving productivity and competing for world trade, he said farmers would have to decide which course they wanted to take.

“If farmers decide they are commodity producers, they will have to focus hard on reducing costs of production and improving efficiencies,” he said – but if they couldn’t compete on price, other options were open.

He said: “Adding value, niche crops, more segmented markets are all possibilities. Farmers have formidably good collateral in land, so can raise the investment needed to diversify.”

And he said such a diversified approach wasn’t part-time farming but “multi-faceted earning”.

“Historically the CAP was not about the support payments to farmers that it has become,” said Moody, “And there is no reason why the successor policy should simply be about income payments.”

He suggested that future policy would be about investing in marketing, innovation, the environment, research, and resilience and while CAAV was working closely with the government in discussing future policy, agricultural valuers were ideally placed to help farmers and owners review their businesses for the future challenges.

“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,” he concluded.

Cereal crop trial a big attraction

With several new spring barely varieties competing to take on Concerto as the undisputed leader in the malting field – and a fistful of new wheat varieties with excellent yield and disease resistance coming on to the market – arable growers have good reason to flock to crop trials this year.

And one of the biggest of these events takes place tomorrow when Cereals in Practice showcases not only the best in new varieties but also highlights the latest in cutting-edge scientific developments in the sector.

Organised by the James Hutton Institute, SRUC and the Scottish Society for Crop Research, the event, at Saphock Farm, on the A920 between Oldmeldrum and Meikle Wartlein Aberdeenshire, is aimed at farmers, agronomists, industry and scientists working with cereals and runs from 2.45pm to 6.30pm.

Variety specialist Dr Steve Hoad said that SRUC’s spring barley recommended list was the longest for many years while on the wheat side he said that some newcomers would be offering considerable benefits for growers in Scotland.

The event will also highlight intercropping opportunities, CAP greening cover crops and N fixing crops.