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Survey highlights farmers’ biggest fears

By Fiona Reid
Survey highlights farmers' biggest fears

MORE than a third of  farmers fear their businesses will no longer be viable as a result of the changes to subsidies and direct payments.  

That’s the initial findings from the Rural Agriculture Group (RAG) Farming Survey for Armstrong Watson, which showed that while these businesses said they had planned for the changes, they were unsure if they would be able to carry on.

Respondents from across the north of England and Scotland, who run livestock, dairy and arable farms, highlighted the future of subsidies among their top three challenges, which also included climate change and the environment as well as cashflow.

When it comes to planning for the future, the survey found that only 32 per cent had succession plans in place, 53 per cent either don’t have a will or need to update their existing will, while a further 63 per cent do not have either a shareholder/partnership agreement in place or one that is up to date.

Additionally, more than half of the respondents, 58 per cent of which are aged 60 or over, have no Power of Attorney arranged.

Andrew Robinson, head of agriculture at Armstrong Watson, pictured above, said: “Some of the findings of the survey were as expected while others are a little alarming.

“It was no surprise that issues including climate change and the environment, changes to subsidies and price volatility rank highly among the biggest challenges for farming businesses and there is a common theme – the lack of control felt by farmers.

“Meanwhile, given that the majority of respondents are aged over 60, and less than half have a Power of Attorney in place, this is something that needs addressing. A Power of Attorney allows family members to deal with a person’s finance if they lose mental capacity.

“When it comes to succession planning, our view is that it is best tackled in small steps, with the most important point being communication between the different generations to find out what they are thinking.”

RAG UK, an association of specialist agricultural accountants, is due to release the national results of the farming survey in the coming weeks.

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