The new President of the National Farmers Union (NFU) has told farmers in a speech at this year’s annual Farm Business Update that “Brexit can be a great opportunity” for their industry, but only if it makes its voice heard in trade talks now.
Speaking shortly before her election as the first female president of the NFU, Minette Batters told her audience that agriculture risked being ‘the sacrificial lamb’ in Brexit talks unless farmers found their ‘collective voice’.
The annual event, organised by chartered accountants Duncan & Toplis and land agents Brown&Co, was attended by more than 200 farmers at Greetham Valley, near Oakham, and the Petwood Hotel, Woodhall Spa. Ms Batters, a beef farmer from Wiltshire, now leads the NFU as the UK enters the final stages of Brexit trade talks. Speaking on February 8th, she told the audience about her immediate priorities.
“Farming starts the Brexit process from a really good place… but we must have a free and frictionless relationship with Europe. The European market is key to British agriculture, however we’ve hardly featured in those trade talks so far, and we need to. We must make sure that farming doesn’t end up as the sacrificial lamb for the financial services sector.”
Going on to talk about the Environment Minister Michael Gove’s plans for a Green Brexit, she was firm on her organisation’s commitment to keep standing up for farmers after the direct payment ends.
“You cannot go green if you’re farming in the red. Farmers do most of the work, take most of the risk but we’re one of the only sectors which can’t pass on rising costs. Our biggest challenge is trying to bring together the collective voice of the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.”
Ms Batters donated her £500 speaking fee to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), a charity which supports children with Type 1 diabetes.
The day’s other speakers discussed the current challenges and opportunities facing Britain’s farmers. Karl Ritz, professor of soil biology at the University of Nottingham, discussed his latest research and outlined the steps farmers can take to promote better soil health on their land.
Mark Chatterton, head of agriculture for Duncan & Toplis, gave his assessment of the industry’s current reliance on the direct payment, warning that “many farmers are not making a profit without the subsidy, even before drawings.” Better tax planning was one way he identified to ready farm finances for Brexit.
Paul White, partner at Brown&Co, discussed how farms “can be reviewing their business now, improving what they do and diversifying ready for the changes that Brexit will inevitably bring.”
Sam Gibson, chartered financial planner at Castlegate Financial Management, talked through the pension implications associated with succession planning and retirement; two of the most complex issues any farming family faces.
And James Black, senior associate for Brown&Co, gave a roundup of the options available to farms with derelict or underused properties on their land, including farm business tenancies and rentals.
JDRF is the type 1 diabetes charity, improving lives until we find the cure. We fund research to cure, treat and prevent type 1 diabetes. We provide information for children, adults and parents living with the condition, at all stages from diagnosis and beyond. We give a voice to people with type 1 diabetes and campaign for increased focus on, and funding for, research to find the cure.
We’re totally focused on type 1 diabetes, and are run by people with type 1, for people with
type 1. JDRF is a global organisation working towards the cure. Internationally, we are the
world’s leading charitable funder of type 1 diabetes research. We work with academia,
industry and governments to make sure that the research we fund has the greatest possible
impact on the lives of people with type 1 now and in the future.
Visit www.jdrf.org.uk for more information.