Farming Updates

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The Game Fair is set to take place this month, as planned despite the CLA pulling out of the event last year. Plans are in place up to 2021 with the event alternating between Ragley Hall, Warwickshire this year and Hatfield House, Hertfordshire.

It has been confirmed that UK farmers will continue to have full access to CAP support schemes and to the EU internal market, until exit negotiations have been completed. Meanwhile, the NFU (E&W) is to launch a major consultation with members over the future shape and focus of farming as a basis for discussions with the Government. Defra has suggested that many existing farming regulations will be retained beyond 2020 whilst they are fully considered and amended, to suit UK farming, or scrapped.

It is predicted that non-farming buyers will exert an increasing influence on farmland prices following the exit from the EU. With economic uncertainty ahead, farmland is seen as a safe haven as a capital investment in itself and not for its revenue earning capacity. The weakening of sterling has already increased the interest of foreign investors in the London property market but little change has been seen in the agricultural market, so far.

A study by Exeter University has disclosed a 50% fall in the number of family farms in the last sixteen years. Economics and tenancy terms have been major factors in the decline with units absorbed by expanding neighbours. There are calls to reverse the decline to enable more new entrants to come into farming.

The latest figures from the HSE, for the year ending 31st March, show a fall in annual farm deaths to 29 from 32 the previous year. The five-year average is 37. The main causes remain moving and overturning vehicles, falls from height and working with animals. Fourteen of the deaths were people of 65 years of age and older.

There is more positive news for dairy farmers with Asda and Arla combining to launch a new milk range that pays a premium to producers. But the overall decline in the sector continues with 1,002 dairy farms in England and Wales having closed since June 2013 leaving 9,538 producers.

The 2016 survey of cereal crop plantings shows a 2% fall in the acreages of winter wheat and barley but with spring barley and oats up 6% and 4% respectively. Continuing poor returns for oilseed rape have led to a fall in acreage of 9% to the lowest level since 2009. The winter barley harvest has just started with yields looking reasonable but quality low.