Bruton Knowles has warned that farmers in Shropshire must diversify to maintain income and not rely on government subsidies in post-Brexit Britain.
Farmers currently receive financial support from the Government through area-based subsidies. However, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has put forward plans to replace these with a scheme based on environmental and public benefits, such as planting more woodlands, creating wildflower meadows, opening up more of the countryside to the public, encouraging bio-diversity and improving water quality.
The current area based payment scheme is expected to run until March 2024.
Gareth Lay, head of Bruton Knowles Shrewsbury office, 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.”
Gareth 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.
“Farmers need to look carefully at the role of their buildings and embrace possible alternative uses. They need to do their research and offer what the market demands. 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.”
Gareth said 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.
He added: “There may also be other options. With land prices still at good levels historically and if there are no natural successors to the business, there may be an opportunity to sell and take advantage of current capital gains tax reliefs.”