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Savills in Carlisle say changes in legislation could lead to ‘positive future’ for farmers

Alex MacLachlan, associate director in the rural management team at Savills in Carlisle

A Carlisle business says the upcoming and recent changes in legislation could lead to a “positive future” for farmers in the county.

“There are huge opportunities for those with an appetite for exploring a range of business arrangements and structures,” explained Alex MacLachlan, associate director in rural management at Savills in Carlisle.

“The departure from the European Union, the arrival of the Agriculture Act and the advent of the Environment Bill at some stage this year combine to present a period of change for UK agriculture not seen since the Green Revolution. In liaising with various parties involved in rural land occupation across Cumbria, opinions vary.

“The Common Agricultural Policy support has become a mainstay for many agricultural businesses and, understandably, all businesses adjust their operations to the circumstances. But how do we wean ourselves off the annual subsidy payments?

“Historically it is important to remember that the support was to secure a food supply for the population, yet more recently there has been the move to payments for the management control of land through the Single Farm Payment and, more recently, the Basic Payment Scheme.

“The pending legislation seeks to ensure that the taxpayer is getting value for money from the Government’s payments towards the rural land sector, through delivering sustainable land management for the public benefit.

“The arrival of an annual subsidy payment provides comfort to a number of businesses. There are many businesses who, over the last 12 months, would have been grateful for a guaranteed revenue and though many consider those managing rural land-based businesses fortunate, the owners of these businesses are often the cornerstone of the community and manage a unique relationship between landlords, tenants and neighbours which brings its own expectations and pressure.”

Mr MacLachlan says the changes are leading to a reevaluation by businesses.

“Understandably people are nervous about the pending change as much of our decision-making is based upon historic knowledge,” he said.

“A number of landlords throughout Cumbria are reconsidering their motivation for owning land and exploring alternative uses for it including renewable energy, forestry and environmental gain.

“This will undoubtedly trigger discussions between landlords and tenants over the coming years as to the future occupation of land and how it will be used.

“There is a positive future for farmers who embrace change, identify what they are seeking to produce from the land and who their customers are and will be in future. There is an opportunity to break with tradition and diversify but, fundamentally, food production will need to remain as the dominant land use in order to keep our growing population fed.

“Whilst there are risks to tenants, landlords and owner-occupiers who choose to let the shifting landscape pass them by, there are huge opportunities for those with an appetite for exploring a range of business arrangements and structures.”