Bruton Knowles has sounded a note of caution following the upbeat Government announcement on post Brexit farming support.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove outlined a series of measures formulated to replace existing area-based subsidies with environmentally friendly measures for planting more woodlands, creating wildflower meadows, opening up more of the countryside to the public, encouraging bio-diversity and improving water quality.
Ben Compton from Bruton Knowles’ Gloucester office said: “Michael Gove has told farmers that the current area based payment scheme is likely to run until March 2024”
“The replacement scheme will be based on environmental and public benefits. The extra time does allow farmers to adjust to new trade deals with a bit more certainty and allow them to plan ahead for a world without area based support.”
But he said Three Counties farmers remained unconvinced.
“A poll in Farmers Weekly shows that just 35 per cent of farmers are confident of getting a good trade deal. Many farmers are resigned to a reduction in taxpayer support.”
Ben Compton believes farmers must look to help themselves rather than rely on environmental benefits.
He said: “Farm Diversification will be crucial to maintaining farm incomes post Brexit. Farmers must look to unlock the potential of their business whilst managing the risk.
“They must look to diversify where possible to ensure their businesses are on the soundest possible footing when the present system of subsidies comes to an end.”
He said farmers should ensure all assets are working, whether land or redundant farm buildings.
“Local planning authorities will potentially come under pressure to support farmers and help them convert buildings – such as redundant barns - and concentrate on developing their assets sustainably.
“They need to look carefully at the role of their buildings and embrace possible alternative uses. Farmers need to do their research and offer what the market demands and if that is high spec holiday accommodation for example then a business plan needs to be produced to support any bank borrowing before the planning application goes in.
In addition there is currently Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) grant support available for projects that create employment and improve productivity which many farmers can take advantage of to ensure they are ready for business post Brexit and post area support.
“There may also be other options with land prices still at good levels historically and if there are no natural successors to the business, then there may be an opportunity to sell and take advantage of current capital gains tax reliefs.”