What is Agriculture in 2018

The Agriculture Bill is very important draft legislation.  We might expect it to define agriculture itself with a new definition fit for the 21st century and our post-Brexit future.  But the closest it seems to get is clause 13 which tells us that ‘agriculture includes any growing of plants, and any keeping of creatures, for the production of food or drink’.  Agriculture here is however, only defined in the narrow context of “agri-food supply chain(s)”.  Nowhere in the bill does there seem to be a definition of agriculture for the bill’s broader purpose.

Contrast this with the vision of the 1947 Agriculture Act which told us that:

“agriculture” includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming and livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and “agricultural” shall be construed accordingly.

What is more, the 1947 Act also defined good husbandry and good estate management.  Good husbandry seems as apposite in 2018 as it did in 1947; perhaps the good estate management of the 1940’s is the good land management of the 21st century.

Should the new legislation be defining these matters for the 21st century, and if so what should the definitions be?

Making the grade as an expert witness

Our next online seminar will cover the requirements expected of expert witnesses in court, tribunal and arbitration cases.  In particular we will look at the implications of Gardiner and Theobald v Jackson (VO).  This judgment, delivered by the Upper Chamber Lands Tribunal in August, reviewed issues regarding the perceived impartiality of an expert witness with regard to his fee relationship with the client.  It underlines the importance of looking at the wider picture in considering the important expectation of the neutrality of experts in court cases.

Please do join us on Friday 12 October, 9.30 to 11.00 am (BST) if you would like to know:

  • Duties of expert witnesses imposed by the courts and tribunals;
  • Key professional expectations, in particular those set out by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors;
  • The differences between advocates and experts;
  • When you can and cannot combine the role of advocate with expert evidence, and how to deal with this dual role in the situations where they can be combined;
  • Preparing the evidence;
  • Preparing for cross examination;
  • This seminar should be of interest to anybody whose work may draw them into the role of an expert witness from time to time.  The emphasis will be on the work of valuers and surveyors, particularly in a rural context, but the key messages apply to anybody acting in a professional capacity.

Full details including booking form here, or cut and paste this link into your browser https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/making-the-grade-as-an-expert-witness-tickets-42462186543

Meanwhile we are preparing our programme for 2019.  Please do get in touch if you have topics that you need or would like us to cover.

Compulsive viewing for compulsory purchase

A reminder that this Friday will see the next online seminar in our #RuBrief series.  We are covering compulsory purchase in the form of an update for practitioners with some knowledge of the topic.  After a quick reprise of the overall structure of compulsory purchase we shall focus on some of the latest developments, in particular:

  • The detailed changes now enacted through the Neighbourhood Planning Act 2017 and the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  These include:
  • Important new provisions on notices of entry
  • The ability to serve a counter-notice to a notice of entry – this could be invaluable to the property-owner concerned about the continuing security of property awaiting occupation by the acquiring authority
  • A re-coding of the No Scheme Principle.  This consigns several important cases in recent years to history
  • Important changes to compensation where property is held under a 1954 Act business tenancy.  RIP the Upper Tribunal Lands Chamber decision in Bishopsgate Space Management – or is it?  It all depends when ….
  • The updated Crichel Down Rules guidance from central government
  • New forms and guidance on claims
  • The emergence of new protocols for Lands Chamber references
  • HS2’s guidance on Alternative Dispute Resolution and the scope for wider use of ADR when problems arise

For more details follows this link to find out more about our #RuBrief series in general, or this link to go direct to the booking form.

If you are actively involved in compulsory purchase I would also welcome your participation in a continuing survey which can be found at this link.  Initial results were presented at the RICS National Rural Conference in Cirencester last month.  They can be seen on slideshare and below:

Health and Harmony: the future of UK Agriculture

Tonight sees the deadline for responses to the Defra (The UK Dept for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) Command Paper on future policy for Agriculture.

Despite reading the document carefully I can’t clearly see what the farmer or farm of the future might look like, but I do get a sense of a higher and more demanding regulatory baseline, albeit with an aspiration for it to be administered more sensibly.

Productivity seems to be important (or is that profitability?  Should the two be conflated?) but there are no clear statements on the nature of the productivity improvements – labour productivity? Total Factor Productivity? Capital productivity? In terms of output or value added …..

As a strategy document the Command Paper seems to offer no clear analysis or evaluation of the current ‘state of the industry’ (eg SWOT analysis or the like); little real analysis of the trade environment (PESTEL) or how it might develop post Brexit. There is a kind of acknowledgement that UK farming’s USPs (Unique Selling Points) are about quality and welfare, and its potential to provide ‘public goods’ but is a strategy based on these factors supported by evidence from the marketplace?

This all seems to herald a tough regulatory baseline against which farmers increase the use of automation, Artificial Intelligence and local labour resources, acting cooperatively and with access to a range of insurance products to protect against volatility but with fallback protections from the government against extreme events in which the provision of public goods will somehow be recognised – at the lowest level through compliance requirements, but perhaps through government payments of some sort at higher levels.

The role of the cooperatives may extend to landscape and catchment scale land management. The leading models in terms of current enterprises seem to be pigs and poultry. We can expect to see regression in direct support with the bigger providers potentially seeming to have the most to lose – this looks like an interim period after which all producers will see regular direct payments abolished.  But who can provide more in the way of public goods?  Smallholders or large-scale farmers and land managers?

There is little discussion of husbandry itself, or the more general commercialisation of farming and farmers – a good business focus and discipline would go a long way to addressing many of the omissions from the Command Paper.

This also reflects the absence of commitment to commissioning and using business/market/behavioural/economic research into the industry itself – this would give well informed answers to many of the questions raised. The questions themselves look as if they will limit the scope of consultees’ responses eg the consultation questions on p35 where two lists are offered from which the preferred three options have to be selected from each: what if the bottom three on list one were above your top three on list two?

It looks as if we can expect to see an emphasis on off farm measures – bringing in benefits of public education, health provision, infrastructure, border protections, biosecurity/phytosanitary measures, labour schemes, apprenticeships.  There is not a lot of obvious commitment to agricultural R&D as such.

Business, leadership (HRM), husbandry, science and ethics should be at the core of any future strategy for the industry along with the answers to some basic questions about the role of farming, food production and food self-sufficiency in a modern western economy.  Did you find these in the Command Paper?  I don’t think I did.

A new Agriculture Act is promised.  Perhaps like its 1947 predecessor we need new definitions of good husbandry and sound land management (estate management in the 1947 Act).

Stop Press: #RuBrief Season Ticket special offer for online seminars for the rural professional

We are offering a cut-price season ticket for this year’s series of online seminars for a limited period.  Full details here

Get 25% off if you book your #RuBrief season ticket before 22nd March at Midnight

  • Get priority access to #RuBrief content ~ Each session is limited to 30 participants
  • Register over 10 Hours of Formal CPD
  • Receive recording of the session within 24hrs even if you can’t attend the live session
  • Exclusive invitation to #RuBrief Peer Group on Linkedin to ask questions and get answers at the point of need.

Season ticket price for 9 sessions :

Standard ticket £50 = £337.5 instead of £450

RICS, CAAV or CLA members £40 = £270 instead of £360.

RICS APC Candidates £30 = £202.5 instead of £360

Book today and you could also join us for our Friday session (16 March) on the General Data Protection Regulation, or the re-run of this session on Friday 27 April

Your #RuBrief Season programme:

Note: If you have already signed up for one of the following contact us and will issue a refund for each individually booked session if you would rather buy a season ticket instead.

  1. “Trustees and beneficiaries of rural estates business best practice” on 23 Mar 2018 – 09:30
  2. “Inheritance Tax: the key rural reliefs for valuers and estate managers – use them or lose them!” on 18 May 2018 09:30
  3. “Practical preparation for Brexit on the farm and rural estate on 29 Jun 2018” – 09:30
  4. “Compulsory purchase: new legislation and cases from 2016 and 2017” on 13 Jul 2018 – 09:30
  5. “Ten key strategic issues for rural estate owners and managers” on 14 Sep 2018 – 09:30
  6. “Making the grade as an expert witness” on 12 Oct 2018 – 09:30
  7. “Targeted effective concise: how to write professionally and effectively” on 26 Oct 2018 – 09:30
  8. “New accounting regulations: the implications for rural valuers” on 23 Nov 2018 – 09:30
  9. “Latest on Brexit, rural taxation and other key strategic developments for rural estates and farms” on 7 Dec 2018 – 09:30

GDPR for property professionals

Another opportunity to sign up for our online seminar on the General Data Protection Regulation.  Eventbrite Booking page here, or our Syncskills/#rubrief page here

We all need to understand these regulations by 25 May.  Clients will require it; others will expect it.  The penalties and publicity for non-compliance will be at the least problematic.

Feedback from our first presentation of this online seminar included these comments on the strengths of our approach:

  • Concise yet informative
  • Simplicity and clarity
  • Clear presentation
  • Clear content, good discussion and engagement with questions
  • good to follow clear and concise
  • simple language!
  • Still in office but good interaction with other professionals
  • Ease of obtaining answers to specific questions
  • Extremely useful overview covering the salient points to note and act on
  • all of it
  • Easy access to ask questions – smallish group
  • succinct and relevant

Please do see for yourself by joining us on our next online seminar.

Two really useful CPD events at Harper Adams

Two forthcoming events at Harper Adams University, Shropshire should be of great interest to practising rural surveyors, valuers and other rural land managers.  The first event sees us joined by Barry Denyer Green of Falcon Chambers for a question-time event on compulsory purchase.  The second is a new rural research conference being hosted at Harper Adams for the first time.

COMPULSORY PURCHASE QUESTION TIME WITH AN EXPERT PANEL: 9 MARCH 2018

  • Barry Denyer Green of Falcon Chambers
  • Roger Bedson of Hinson Parry
  • Philip Meade of Davis Meade Property Consultants
  • Charles Cowap, Harper Adams University (chairman)

When? Friday 9 March, buffet lunch 12.45 for 13.15, followed by Question Time event at 14.00 to 15.15 and followed by tea and biscuits
Who? Renowned authority, barrister Barry Denyer-Green PhD HonRICS, HS2 Petitioner and Regional Compulsory Purchase Association organiser Roger Bedson FRICS FAAV, Partner in Hinson Parry and Philip Meade FRICS ACIarb RICS Dispute Resolution Standards chair and highly experienced arbitrator
What? A question-time style session with our distinguished panel looking at the current state of compulsory purchase. After a few opening remarks from each panel member we will throw the discussion open to the floor. We invite you to send your questions in beforehand, but we will also be able to take some questions on the day as well, by email to cdcowap@harper-adams.ac.uk
Where? Harper Adams University, near Edgmond, Newport, Shropshire TF10 8NB. Look out for the parking signs on the day.
Why? A unique opportunity to discuss the current state of our compulsory purchase code with leading authorities on the subject, and to network with fellow professionals with shared interests in this work.
How? Book and pay on the Harper Adams website at this link (or download a booking form from the same link) Cost £45+VAT (£54 including VAT) including lunch, parking and all refreshments.

RURAL RESEARCH CONFERENCE 18 APRIL 2018

This year’s programme covers a  wide range of topics including Farm tenancies, valuation, compulsory purchase, energy, health and safety, agricultural property relief, natural capital, professional negligence and others, all adding up to 6.5 hours CPD.  Latest information on the programme and booking details available on the Harper Adams website at this link.

And not forgetting the next in the Online Seminar Series with Syncskills if you prefer to update your CPD from the comfort of your office or home.  Next topic covers the role of trusts and trustees in the management of rural estates.  Between these three events you could easily cover all your CPD requirements for the year, efficiently and cost-effectively.