Growers urged to review 5-point arable farm ‘bucket list’ before Brexit

Tillage farmers – regardless of their size or location in the country – should focus on a five-point ‘bucket list’ to ready themselves for Brexit, growers at the Northern Ireland Arable Conference heard.

Almost 200 farmers attended the event on Thursday run by the Ulster Farmers’ Union, Ulster Arable Society and CAFRE.

Martin Grantley-Smith, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) strategy director cereals and oilseeds, warned farmers they needed to make their business as lean as possible before Brexit.

The future

He explained how competition from cheaply-produced imports and the threat hanging over future subsidies would affect farms through a series of models put together by AHDB.

He said research by the organisation showed that potential export opportunities “would not help much” and added that opening the UK to more imports was a “real threat” to farm businesses.

Grantley-Smith emphasised the importance of reviewing as many of his five points as possible before Brexit.

He asked farmers to ask themselves the following questions:
  • Are we making time to take a ‘hands-off’ view of the business?
  • Do we know our costs; and how do they compare?
  • Is the business providing sufficient profit on a five-year rolling average before direct payment?
  • Do you have a plan that takes account of different payment scenarios?
  • What skills will the business need – a change of enterprise, structure or diversification?

He said: “What we do know is that over a period of time there will be a shift away from production-based subsidies toward environmental incentives.

“There will be a shift from pillar one to pillar two and we can’t be sure that the total amount will be the same. You can be sure that the treasury will be keen to get its hands on some of that for health or education.

The director made the point that, no matter how things work out at the end of the day, farmers can start making the necessary changes now to put themselves in a strong position.

You’ve got to face the fact that at some point there will be a lower subsidy – if any subsidy at all for production.

“You need to know your costs – one thing that was consistent about those in the top 25% was that they are benchmarking and costing. Use whatever system is best for you – but do it – please benchmark.

Grantley-Smith concluded with a warning: “We may be in a position in the future where we need to compete with countries we have been protected from previously.”