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01st November, 2017

It’s been over a year since the vote and uncertainty in agriculture continues unabated with the publication of the AHDB report. Three scenarios have been highlighted for the farming economy, dependant on the “type” of Brexit the Government achieves. The conclusions are not that positive, and the reality is that there is not a lot that we can do.

The Dairy Show, hosted recently by the Royal Bath & West gave us a clear indication of both the drive and the ambition of the dairy farm community. Helped by a 30% increase in ex-farm milk prices in the past 12 months, there was a genuine buoyant attitude amongst the community, but recognition that we’re in for a rocky journey.

Many farmers understand that access to suitably qualified and committed staff could be a major problem if the UK does not achieve a balanced economic immigration policy. This is compounded already by the weak pound against the growth of the Polish economy, which is starting to drive the polish working community back home.

Food processors – the much-maligned middle men of the agri’ supply chain – are rightly shouting loud about the need to secure robust markets within and outside of the EU, and with very little progress being made, this is starting to become a problem. If we can’t secure new markets, then who will be buying British products in the volume required to maintain a stable food economy?

Finally, farmers need certainty from Government on what the agri’ support mechanism might look like post-Brexit. The Government has committed to financing the current CAP budget until 2020. After this, farming will have to present a compelling case for future support. The nature of the trading relationship we negotiate with the EU and countries beyond, and the controlled access to labour we enjoy, will dictate the level of support we require after 2020.

The message is that it is important to focus on what you can control and don’t fester on what is out of your control. There are some positive measures that should be considered – review diversification options; add value to existing produce and consider a mixed portfolio of farming activity.

The immediate future for farming could be fine assuming the pound remains as weak as it is; the uncertainty of the next two years will be a challenge; so use this time to plan for a long term future with less or even no Government support, build relationships and develop more innovative and productive ways of working.

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