2018 is shaping up to be an interesting year by any standards. Aside from the political scene, which seems to change day to day, it has been something of a rollercoaster ride for farming.
One of the coldest winters and wettest springs for many years saw very late spring cultivations, which then had to contend with the hottest and driest summers since 1976. In the Eastern Counties many farmers were harvesting oilseed rape overnight to keep the moisture high enough for pressing, and there will be huge differences in yield between spring and winter crops for some, with soil type being crucial. Fortunately arable prices rose sharply over the summer but a combination of price and yield will make for a wide range of financial results.
Meanwhile the livestock areas saw fodder running short during the summer with the prospect of buying in straw looming this autumn. The impact of this will be compounded by an appreciable drop in meat prices over the last 12 months. So certainly a year of “up corn, down horn”.
Then of course, we have had the publication of the Agriculture Bill. Promised in July, it was finally delivered in September a few days before our annual conference, where it was a major talking point. As an enabling bill, it contains little detail, but our review of the news from DEFRA which emerged before and after publication gives a fair indication of where it is heading. The withdrawal of Direct Support for farmers by 2027 has been referred to as a “Nine year notice to quit” for many. It remains to be seen whether the new Environmental Land Management schemes will be developed in a way which will fill the funding gap for the average farm.
Our annual conference, held in Moorgate on 20th September was another great success. We had a wide range of speakers, covering everything from wild boar in the Forest of Dean to drones over Norfolk, via VAT, IHT, MTD and partnership agreements. Next year’s event is scheduled for 24 September so make a note in the diary.
And finally, sadly, this will be my last chairman’s address as I hand over to your new chair Aloysia Daros at the end of the year. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time as Chair which has seen a number of significant challenges in the sector, with a few still to play out! Thank you for your continued support.
Mike Dyer, Partner, Business Advisory and Taxation and Head of Agriculture, Kreston Reeves
Farming & Rural Business Community, December 2018