Agriculture: Five Great Challenges

Jeremy Moody, Secretary and National Adviser to the Central Association of Agricultural Valuers, spoke at Harper Adams University on Thursday 15th October on ‘Agriculture: Five Great Challenges’.

Opening with the observation that necessity is the mother of invention Jeremy commented that farming only adapts when it has to do so.

Jeremy identified his five great challenges as:

  1. Volatility.  Farming’s response so far has been to spread unit costs by taking on more land.  Attempts have been made to spread risks as well, but farming risks are increasingly connected.  Cost leadership is the answer, but ‘costs are like daisies’ – you cut them down and they grow up again.  Some farmers have responded effectively by moving further down the supply chain, for example the potato grower who now supplies chips to take aways.
  2. Output/acre ~ value/acre: We are generally growing low value commodity crops and with this we are seeing an inexorable shift to domination by combinable crops, wheat in particular.  The number of potato growers is predicted to drop from 2,000 to 1,000 over 10 years.  On the other hand, high value output enterprises are starting to appear.  For example vineyards in the south of England, and orchards.
  3. Resources: capital has been readily available at very modest cost, but the rising challenge will be the repayment of the capital itself rather than the servicing charges.  There are 60,000 farms which keep only one person in work.  Employed labour is concentrated in the pig, poultry, horticulture and dairy sectors and many of these employees come from abroad.  There are gaps in the age structure of farmers and it will be a continuing challenge to recruit and retain skilled labour.  Foreign workers are no longer confined to handwork in the fields but are steadily moving up the value chain – without its input we would not be able to sustain much of the higher value cropping leaving farmers with little choice but to revert to monocultural wheat.  Soil health and the resilience of natural capital is also a key part of the resource challenge.  We need to be able to put the right values on the health of soil.  This also draws in the value of water, and abstraction rights for irrigation in particular.
  4. Science and productivity: There has not been much growth in productivity since the 1980’s yet we know that precision farming can increase yields.  There needs to be spare capacity in management in order to make time to consider the possibilities and implement new approaches.  Our increasing reliance on data raises questions about its ownership, for example at the end of tenancies, from one farmer to another, from contractor to farmer.  Actually making effective use of all the data and technology now at the farmer’s disposal is also a large part of this challenge.  Modern machines have enormous technical capacity, but in practice little of what is available might actually be used.
  5. Progression: Flexibility must be the watchword in considering progression.  New entrants need not be young.  Sideways entrants from other sectors can bring just as much and more.  The wonderful smallholding opportunity for the 25 year old can be prison for the same 40 year old.  The industry is dominated by family businesses, 90% of farm employers and 30% can trace their farming origins to before 1900.  Increasingly we may see 90 year olds leaving farms to 70 year olds.

We cannot be the world’s cheapest producers, it is therefore essential that we focus on high input and high output farming with a long term view to ensuring the health of the basic resources on which farming and much else depends.

What do you think of Jeremy’s Five Challenges for Farming?  Here’s the video if you would like to see more:

Source: Agriculture: Five Great Challenges by Jeremy Moody

This video was filmed at Harper Adams University on 15 October 2015 in front of a live audience of students and staff in the Weston Lecture Theatre

Disinherited? Don’t lose heart. Disinheriting? Take care …

‘Woman rejected by mother in will wins £164,000 inheritance’ according to the BBC’s headline.  Melita Jackson died on 29 June 2004 leaving her net estate of £486,000 to a selection of charities.  Melita had had little if anything to do with these charities during her lifetime.  Sadly Melita had fallen out with her only child, Heather Ilott.  The pair became estranged when Heather was 17 or 18 years old because Heather ran away with a man who was to become her husband and father of her five children.

Heather’s claim against the estate of her late mother has  reached its latest decision from the Court of Appeal having been up and down from County Court to High Court and back up again to the Court of Appeal (Ilott v Mitson CA [2015] EWCA Civ 797).  Mrs Ilott’s latest appeal was that an award against her mother’s estate of £50,000 was insufficient for her maintenance and the award should be increased.  The Court of Appeal has set aside the award and substituted its own award of £143,000 plus up to a further £20,000.  Why and how? Continue reading “Disinherited? Don’t lose heart. Disinheriting? Take care …”

Strategy and the land manager

These slides provide an update on the survey I have been undertaking for my RAU 100 Club/RICS (Royal Agricultural University/Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) Fellowship on the topic of strategy in rural estate management. The 151 respondents to date have been involved in the management of at least 1.973 million acres in the last year, and potentially up to 4 million acres. It’s therefore probably reasonable to claim a mid figure of 3 million acres, or at least 1 million hectares. Analysis continues but there are already some very interesting results.

Estate Management Strategy: a survey

Please can I invite readers to complete a short survey for me, particularly if you are involved in land or estate management on any scale.

There are seven questions, and it should take no more than a few minutes to complete.  This link will take you to the survey:

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RKDDXRZ

The results of the survey will be published in my report for the RICS/RAU 100 Club Fellowship (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors/Royal Agricultural University).  They should be useful to estate managers in extending our understanding of the role of strategic planning on the rural estate, and helpful to students and course designers.

If you would like to receive a summary of the results there is an option to provide your contact details but other than this individual responses will be confidential.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and input.  The preliminary results will be available at the National Rural Conference at the RAU on Thursday 18 June.  Booking details here:

http://www.rics.org/uk/training-events/conferences-seminars/rics-rural-conference/cirencester/

Trustee Development Spring 2015

The personal responsibility of an estate trustee far exceeds that of a company director, shareholder, limited liability partner or sole trader. This responsibility extends to settlors and beneficiaries, and many others besides. Many people rely on rural estates for their livelihood and homes. Estates are under wider public scrutiny on a scale never experienced before. The complexities of farming and rural estate management have never been greater. New business opportunities abound for the creative estate manager, but the prospect of commercial reward comes with risk.

Working with the CLA we have devised a one day trustee training course which includes a tour of an award-winning estate. The Rhug estate will be our host on 17 March 2015, and we are delighted to be visiting Ragley Hall for the first time on 21 March.

The programme will ensure that estate trustees know their job: a vital safeguard for settlors, beneficiaries, estate managers, other professional advisers and, not least, trustees themselves.

Training Outcomes
On successful completion you should:
• Understand the extent of the personal responsibility of a trustee to beneficiaries;
• Understand the trustees’ role, authority and responsibility in the management of a rural estate;
• Participate effectively in trustees’ meetings and other trust business;
• Relate effectively to beneficiaries, settlors, staff, key advisers and other interested parties in the strategic management and direction of a rural estate

To book a place please follow this link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/gsuas1gvrojpiib/Trust%20Programme%20Spring%202015.pdf?dl=0

Alternatively, please email Charles Cowap, cdcowap@gmail.com or call Charles on 07947 706505, or use the contact form below. RICS members, chartered accountants and solicitors will be able to claim formal CPD in respect of their participation.