Borderway Agri Expo finds that farmers want clarity and need to know more about the support available

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As part of Harrison & Hetherington’s Borderway Agri Expo, held on October 28, H&H Land and Estates hosted two seminars to discuss the future of farming.

Concerns about funding schemes and payments was a major issue discussed during the first seminar, Future of Farming in Northern England. With questions asked about how much influence the Efra committee have on policy making and concerns over food security and land management. Post-Brexit it is still unclear where farmers stand regarding exports of quality livestock which is something else that is a concern for those in the sector.

Defra representative, John Powell said during the seminar that: “producing food in a sustainable way was a priority, and always had been. We are in a transitionary period and ministers have agreed to review the current land management schemes. This is a period of evolution, and we will be learning lessons during this time.”

While Dr Julia Aglionby said: “What is clear, is that currently the Government has not planned forwards, so they are effectively pushing farmers over a cliff and there is no safety net. This means that farmers cannot plan forward to adapt their businesses to the new policies because they don’t know what the new schemes are going to be, all they know is that BPS is being phased out, and by next year they will have lost 35% of their BPS as a minimum.

“What was also raised was the concern about the changes of land use, so there were a lot of farmers, who came out quite strongly, about the unintended consequence of new government policy. A lot of landlords are taking land back in hand to plant it because it is more profitable than producing food. For instance, south of Penrith there are already seven farms which are no longer being farmed or in the next few years will be planted with trees because it’s in the landlord’s interest to do that rather than keep farmers farming.”

In the second seminar, A Live Debate: Issues Faced by the Younger Generation in Agriculture, speakers discussed key issues of the future, such as a need for better education – for both the public and industry.

Georgia Hunter, a dairy goat farmer and member of H&H’s Farmstock Futures Programme, highlighted that to secure a successful farming future: “You need to step back and look at what is currently happening on the farm as opposed to just farming the land. Little steps can make life much easier.”

In debating farming and the environment, Helen Dent, Carbon Metrics director, commented: “Farmers are the ‘greens’, we produce food environmentally, and this needs to be understood by both the farmers themselves and the general public. Globally the UK is leading the way, so we must educate our customers and the wider general public about this. The UK can be a leading light for farming.”

At the close of the Expo, H&H’s director Tim Sedgewick said: “The message was clear; more clarity and clearer information is needed for farmers going forward. They need to know the support that is available at this critical time in which the UK agricultural sector is playing a vital role.”

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