Generational change in farming

By Martin Hall, Senior Director

My role as Junior Vice President of CAAV offers a broad perspective of the significant shift underway in the countryside.

Farming is currently experiencing a generational change – probably the greatest change we have seen in 50 years – and there have never been so many potential paths to follow and options available.

Firstly, we have more competing land uses than we have seen before – food production, environmental enhancement, forestry, carbon sequestration, energy production, recreation and tourism, and housing development. The values that can be attributed to some of these things have seen huge fluctuations in recent months and new markets are emerging outwith the traditional land uses.

Support for farming is developing at different timelines and in different directions in each of the devolved countries of the UK. In England the shift is very much here and now, and the last BPS SAF submission on May 15th will take place in 2023. In Scotland, the can has been kicked down the road for a few more years, and much of the detail is yet to be communicated making it difficult for businesses to plan ahead.

Much has been said about carbon, but the message to the industry is quite simple. You have to start with a baseline audit to measure your current carbon levels. If you already have carbon count, do take the opportunity to have it validated, and keep hold of it for the future – you don’t know when it may be needed. A market is developing but generally at low levels to date, though values are likely to increase.

In England, as a result of requirements of the planning process, the markets are beginning to develop in Biodiversity Net Gain and Nutrient Neutrality.

In Scotland, following the adoption of the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), we are likely to see these environmental enhancements introduced as part of the development process, with opportunities for farmers near to development areas.

Throughout the UK, there is a housing shortage, and with consistent under delivery of land for housing, land values continue to move up. Letting regulation is now complex and has become a barrier to new properties becoming available, and in some areas such as Edinburgh and Wales, housing used for holiday lets or Air BnB needs planning consent.

The pressures to increase energy production and to control costs for businesses have seen a push in renewable energy, be it at farm and large scale through AD plants, Solar, Wind and Battery Storage. All add value to rural businesses, and some are transformational.

Fluctuations in input prices and farm gate prices for produce make it difficult to plan for many farm enterprises. This, in addition to the roll out of all things digital, can make the operation of family farm businesses difficult. For some, the question of succession is looming. There have been active discussions on this in recent years, which is to be encouraged. For those without natural successors, then strategic advice on the options can be a useful first step.

There is no doubt there are many challenges ahead, but there are also many opportunities. With the right advice we can work through this together.


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