Brexit is likely to speed up the rate of agricultural change, and the industry should plan ahead and adapt quickly in order to seize its opportunities, says the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers (CAAV).    

“Brexit is a prompt to do many things we should be doing anyway, such as improving productivity and competing for world trade,” states Jeremy Moody, CAAV secretary and adviser. This is the biggest peacetime task since 1945 and it’s a task that’s a lot bigger than the government alone. If the industry wishes to take control of its destiny it requires effective and practical leadership at every level from top organisations down to individual farming businesses. We need to analyse situations, develop ideas, and have a direction to manage change effectively.

“There is huge pressure for change, more challenges from the market and greater expectations on farming businesses,” he continues. “Area payments have held back structural transformation for years, so there is a lot of pent up change out there.”

Farmers will have to decide whether to become commodity producers or address more niche markets. If the former, they must focus hard on reducing the costs of production and becoming more efficient.  But, “if they can’t compete on price, then everything else is an opportunity: adding value, niche crops, more segmented markets. Farmers have formidably good collateral in land, so can raise the investment needed to diversify. It’s not part-time farming, it is multi-faceted earning.”

CAP payments were not always about supporting farmers as they are today, so the successor policy will not necessarily be about income payments, Mr Moody warns. “Policy and support can be tailored to fulfil future needs.  We need to be looking at investing in marketing, innovation, the environment, research, and resilience.”