The Bill is dead. Due to lack of parliamentary time the Agriculture Bill has fallen, and we must now await The Queen’s Speech to find out if it will be included and the process start again.
The Agriculture Bill was going to produce the ‘blueprint’ for the future of any farm support and herald a radical change of British Agricultural Policy, moving from an area-based payment to a system of paying ‘public money for public goods’. The development of ELMS, an ‘Environmental Land Management Scheme’ was due to commence with pilot schemes commencing 2021. But I wonder what happens now. Any consequences could reach beyond the farm gate as many other rural businesses depend on their links with the agricultural industry.
In my view, this ongoing uncertainty is no excuse for complacency. Rural businesses should take stock by taking a dispassionate view of their current activity and seek to identify any opportunities they can. Old fashioned it may be, but a simple ‘SWOT’ analysis is not a bad starting point. As the business owner or manager include yourself in the SWOT and be honest; if you are uncomfortable dealing with the general public, which many farmers are, don’t even think about embarking on a farm shop, catering outlet or bed and breakfast! Be equally honest about the finances of your business.
Perhaps you have a dairy farm and see value in building additional cow accommodation, or extending your existing holiday let capacity, or venturing into glamping. The list of options for any farm or rural business may seem endless, but once you start considering factors such as location, local competition, soil type and access, the list shrinks very rapidly.
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By Ian Bell OBE