Monthly farming update

Our renowned Monthly Farming Update was started by Prof John Nix and is our running commentary on the industry. Offering the latest news and unique insights on the rural and farming sectors, updated on a monthly basis, the publication has a wide readership amongst farmers and professionals. Now available online as a free resource or via snail mail by request.


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+ Policy issues

1 The Government has reintroduced the Environment Bill to Parliament. Its aim is to deliver the “most ambitious environmental programme of any country on earth”. It is intended to manage the impact of human activity on the environment, creating a more sustainable and resilient economy, and enhancing well-being and quality of life. The Bill legally obliges policy-makers to have due regard to the environmental principles policy statement when choosing policy options. The principles are: environmental protection should be integrated into policy-making; preventative action to avert environmental damage; precaution; environmental damage should, as a priority, be rectified at source; and the polluter pays. The Office for Environmental Protection will act as an independent, domestic watchdog and all climate change legislation will be within the enforcement remit of the Office.

2 The Agriculture Bill has been presented to Parliament (see factsheet).

1 Defra has confirmed that all Direct Payments will continue for 2020 with the same level of overall funding as for 2019. All existing Rural Development Programme protects will continue to be funded as well as those approved by 31 December 2020.

2 A taskforce set up by the Scottish Government has recommended improvements in the way the Common Agricultural Policy is delivered between 2021-2024. These include changes to online land mapping systems and better appeals processing in order to take a more proportional approach to financial penalties when errors are identified.

3 The Rural Payments Agency has advised that, by 20 January, 97 per cent of farmers had received their Basic Payments with £1.69 billions paid in addition to £109 millions paid under the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship Schemes.

1 A report published by the Committee on Climate Change has suggested the increasing use of low-carbon farming practices, improving animal health, precision farming, planting more trees, restoring peatland, increasing the planted area of bioenergy crops and reducing food waste would help to achieve reductions in carbon emissions. The Committee proposes the planting of 30,000 hectares of woodland each year to increase forestry cover to 17 per cent, from the existing 13 per cent, by 2050; increasing the area of bioenergy crops by 23,000 hectares each year; reducing consumption of beef, lamb and dairy by 20 per cent; and reducing food waste by 20 per cent.

2 Research undertaken at the University of Exeter has suggested that the collapse of the Atlantic Overturning Circulation could result in a fall in the UK average temperature of 3.4 degrees C and a reduction in average rainfall of 123mm.

3 The Government is to make available £1.15 millions of funding to help businesses and organisations develop new ways of tackling food waste by changing people’s behaviour or transforming it into other materials. The Citizen Food Waste Prevention grant, totalling £650,000, will award grants of between £25,000 and £100,000 to entities which are inspiring the public to reduce household food waste. The Value from Food Waste fund, totalling £500,000, will be available to entities which pilot methods to create useful materials out of food that would otherwise go to waste. Funding will be available for revenue and capital usage costs between £20,000 and £100,000. Both schemes will be managed by WRAP.

4 A new task force, the Joint Unit for Waste Crime, has been formed to bring together law enforcement agencies, environmental regulators, HM Revenue & Customs and the National Crime Agency to tackle organised waste crime which is estimated to cost the UK economy £600 millions each year.

5 ‘Natural capital’ is the sum of ecosystems, covering food, air, water, wildlife, energy, wood, recreation and protection from hazards. Defra has published a comprehensive and integrated set of evidence and guidance, online, to help policy makers, businesses, landowners and public sector organisations make better planning decisions.

6 Scotland’s Knowledge and Transfer Fund has agreed to support Scotland’s Rural College to run a year’s pilot project which aims to keep calves with their mothers for longer.

7 A project backed by the European Space Agency is offering British beekeepers the opportunity to put ultra-sensitive monitors in their hives. The monitors will determine if temperature and humidity levels are at their optimum enabling rapid remedial action if necessary.

8 An updated handbook and application form has been issued for the Farming Recovery Fund.

1 The England Farm Business Survey for 2018/19 has published analysis of the profitability and resilience of farms. The average level of liabilities was £234,400, slightly up on the previous year; 15 per cent of farms had liabilities of over £400,000 while 26 per cent had liabilities of less than £10,000; the highest debt levels were in pig and poultry farms at £551,000, dairy farms at £434,900 and general cropping at £316,100; the lowest debt levels were in less favoured area grazing farms at £95,100 and lowland grazing farms at £104,300; and farms in the East of England had the highest debt levels at £300,000, while farms in the North West had the lowest at £181,600. The average net worth was unchanged at £1.82 millions; mixed owner occupied farms had the highest net worth at £2.6 millions while tenanted farms had net worth at £313,100; general cropping farms had the highest net worth at £2.9 millions while horticulture farms had the lowest at £750,000; and while large farms had the highest net worth, on a per hectare basis spare and part-time farms were worth £18,700 per hectare while large farms were only worth £10,600 per hectare. The average gearing ratio was unchanged at 11 per cent; 52 per cent had a gearing ratio of less than 5 per cent, only 8 per cent had a gearing ratio of over 40 per cent; spare and part-time farms had a gearing ratio of 6 per cent while large farms were at 17 per cent; and owner occupied farms had a gearing ratio of 8 per cent while tenanted farms were at 26 per cent. The average liquidity ratio was 222 per cent, unchanged since 2009/10; 16 per cent had a ratio of less than 100 per cent; the highest liquidity was 302 per cent for livestock farms in less favoured areas while pig and poultry farms had the lowest at 130 per cent; and medium-sized farms had the highest liquidity at 294 per cent while large farms had the lowest at 174 per cent. Return on Capital Employed was negative at 0.1 per cent with 53 per cent having a negative return.

2 Provisional figures have been published in respect of the productivity of the food chain. In 2018 there was an increase of 0.8 per cent despite the wider economy falling by 0.2 per cent. This compares to the average over the previous 10 years of growth rates of 0.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent respectively. Productivity in food wholesaling rose by 2 per cent but fell by 0.5 per cent in manufacturing. Gross Value Added for the food chain sector totalled £110.6 billions representing 9 per cent of the non-financial business economy.

3 Revised estimates for Total Income from Farming in 2018 have been published. In 2018 TIFF fell by 17 per cent or £971 millions to £4,644 millions; output grew by 2 per cent to £26,562 millions; crop output rose by 0.9 per cent to £9,265 millions with higher prices compensating for lower yields; livestock output rose by 2 per cent to £14,741 millions due to higher prices; intermediate consumption costs rose by 8 per cent to £17,014 millions driven by higher fuel, feed and fertilizer costs. Overall agriculture contributed £9,548 millions to the national economy, a fall of 6 per cent, or £651 millions on 2017.

4 The Agricultural Price Index for November reveals that outputs fell by 7.2 per cent, compared to a year earlier, with prices of cereals, potatoes and forage plants all down, although the index was up 2.1 per cent on October. The index for inputs fell by 3.4 per cent compared to a year earlier and by 0.2 per cent compared to October.

5 Strutt and Parker has reported that hill ground in Scotland suitable for tree planting has increased in price from £2,000 per acre to £3,000 per acre over the past year.

6 Cornwall County Council is to invest £16.4 millions in its county farms estate over the next 10 years.

+ Product prices

A Market background

1 The Sterling exchange rates against Dollar and Euro followed similar volatile paths again this month. Against the Euro, having opened at 84.7p per €, Sterling fluctuated between 84.4p and 85.8p for much of the month before gaining a little strength in the latter stages to close the month at 84.0p per € (0.7p stronger). Against the US Dollar, having opened at 75.4p per $, the Pound dropped back and oscillated between 76.0p and 77.1p before recovering at the month end to close at 75.8p per $ (0.4p weaker). Brent Crude oil prices improved early on but, thereafter, last month’s gains ebbed away as the month progressed. Opening at $66.00 and peaking at $68.91, the average price fell for the remainder of the month to close at $58.29 per barrel; a reduction of $7.71 (12 per cent).

B Crops

1 The average wheat price improved again this month, although it finished on a downward trajectory. The main driver of the improvement was US reports that wheat plantings are the lowest seen in over a century, whilst US demand still rises. Alongside low plantings in Western Europe, the prices in the Black Sea region have risen which, in turn, has opened the market to speculative funds seeking to profit from the volatility, which, in reality, only increases volatility further. LIFFE feed wheat futures fluctuated with swings of up to £7 over the course of the month but, by late January, they had returned to December’s close, deliveries for November 2020 and 2021 stood at £162/tonne (-) and £153/tonne (-) respectively. The reduction in the crude oil price was the dominant driver pushing the oilseed rape price down in the latter part of the month.

Average spot prices in late January (per tonne ex-farm): feed wheat £148 (+5); milling wheat £163 (+5); feed barley £125 (+5); oilseed rape £326 (-9); feed peas £192 (+18); feed beans £198 (+18).

2 The average potato price improved by a moderate margin this month. The wet weather continued to prevent many of those with crops still in the ground from harvesting and large areas of crop have now been written off. The market saw a high volume of lower quality samples, largely late-harvested crop that will not store well. Demand for higher quality samples remained strong as those with good quality are keeping stores sealed. This excess of demand saw the free-buy price gain as packers and processors sought to cover their position. By late January the average potato price had gained a further £11 to close at £188 per tonne (£10 below the January 2019 closing average). The free-buy average made a healthy gain of £18 to close the month at £204 per tonne (£42 below the January 2019 close).

2019 crop prices for grade 1 packing in late January (per tonne ex-farm): Salad varieties (<45mm - mainly Maris Peer and Gemson) had improved at the top end to between £250 and £450; Maris Piper had improved marginally at the lower end to between £190 and £300 and King Edwards were moving in small volumes at £200. White varieties had improved at the bottom end to between £180 and £300 whilst red skin varieties had fallen back to between £200 and £250.

2019 crop prices for grade 1 packing in late December (per tonne ex-farm): Salad varieties (<45mm - mainly Annabelle, Maris Peer and Gemson) had improved to between £250 and £425; Maris Piper had improved at the lower end to between £180 and £300; King Edwards were moving at between £165 and £200 and white varieties had improved further to between £160 and £300; meanwhile red skin varieties had improved further to between £220 and £300.

C Livestock

1 Cattle prices were mixed but generally negative. The average finished steer price fell back by a small margin; from an opening position of 185p/kg lw, it dropped to 182p/kg before finishing on a positive note at 183p/kg lw (down 2p to sit 4p below the closing average a year earlier). The average finished heifer price was more volatile but fell further. From an opening position of 196p/kg lw, it initially improved to a peak of 199p/kg but then dropped back over the remainder of the month to close at 192p/kg lw (down 4p to sit 4p below the price a year earlier). The average dairy cow price remained volatile: from an opening position of £1,094 per head, the average peaked early in the month at £1,407 and dropped to £1,128 before closing at £1,237 per head (up £143 in the month but £53 below the average a year earlier).

2 Lamb prices remained positive this month, attributed largely to the excessively wet weather hampering animal finishing. The average new season finished lamb price (SQQ live weight), from an opening position of 203p/kg lw, rose to 209p/kg, dropped back by a penny mid-month, then made further improvements to close at 214p/kg lw (11p up and 14p/kg above the average a year earlier).

3 The average UK all pig price (APP) continued to improve in the first half of the month, hitting prices not seen in almost three years, but appeared to plateau thereafter. Opening at 163.4p/kg dw, the average peaked at 165.3p/kg, relaxed to 165.1p/kg and eventually closed at 165.4p/kg (up 2.0p to sit 21.8p/kg above the closing average a year earlier).

4 The UK average ‘all milk’ price for October, published in December, remains the most recent published data, reporting an average of 29.39ppl (2.05ppl below the average in October 2018 and 2.3ppl above the rolling 5 year average of 27.09ppl). In the rankings against the ‘EU28’ farmgate milk price, the October figures recorded the UK improved by one place to 19th against a reduced EU28 weighted average of 31.48ppl (0.22ppl down).

+ Other crop news

1 The Agricultural Price Index in November for crop products rose by 0.9 per cent compared to October. There were increases of 1.7 per cent for wheat and barley, 2.1 per cent for oats, 11.1 per cent for potatoes, 3.1 per cent for forage plants and 15.4 per cent for fresh fruit but a fall of 2.1 per cent for oilseed rape. Compared to a year earlier there were falls of 31.8 per cent for wheat, 50.8 per cent for barley, 54.6 per cent for oats, 25.7 per cent for potatoes, 1 per cent for sugar beet, 35.1 per cent for forage plants and 1.5 per cent for fresh vegetables. However, there were increases of 0.5 per cent for oilseed rape and 29.6 per cent for fresh fruit.

2 Bayer has reported that 62 per cent of oilseed rape samples tested in September contained light leaf spot symptoms.

3 The latest estimate of the 2019 potato harvest is 5.1 million tonnes, up 182,000 tonnes on 2018 but 7 per cent below the 5-year average. The estimate assumes an unharvested area of 6 per cent. The average net yield is 45.6 t/ha, up 3.9 t/ha on 2018 but 2 per cent below the 5-year average.

4 The latest estimate of the 2019 sugar beet harvest is expected to produce 1.18-1.2 million tonnes of sugar compared with 1.13 tonnes in 2018 despite the planted area having fallen by nearly 10 per cent.

+ Other livestock news

1 A Ruminant Health and Welfare Group is to be formed on 1 April to accelerate progress against endemic diseases and reputational challenges which are estimated to cost the livestock sector £500 millions every year.

2 In the year to October, compared to the previous year, the number of new herd bovine TB incidents fell by 5 per cent with falls of 7 per cent in the High risk area and 2 per cent in the Edge area but an increase of 20 per cent in the Low risk area. There were falls of 29 per cent in Scotland and 12 per cent in Wales. The number of herds not officially TB free fell by 7 per cent in England with falls of 8 per cent in the High risk area and 4 per cent in the Edge area but an increase of 27 per cent in the Low risk area. There was a fall of 1 per cent in Scotland.

3 The Agricultural Price Index for November for cattle and calves rose by 4.3 per cent, compared to October, while there were increases of 1.6 per cent for pigs, 10.2 per cent for sheep and lambs and 1 per cent for milk but a fall of 1 per cent for poultry. Compared to a year earlier there were increases of 13 per cent for pigs and 5.7 per cent for sheep and lambs but falls of 3.1 per cent for cattle and calves, 0.8 per cent for poultry, 8 per cent for milk and 0.8 per cent for eggs.

4 In December, slaughterings of UK prime cattle fell by 0.6 per cent, compared to a year earlier, to 153,000; beef and veal production rose by 1.8 per cent to 71,000 tonnes; sheep slaughterings fell by 0.7 per cent to 1.19 millions; mutton and lamb production rose by 0.5 per cent to 27,000 tonnes; pig slaughterings rose by 12 per cent to 934,000; and pigmeat production rose by 14 per cent to 82,000 tonnes.

5 A new association has been formed by Earl De La Warr of Buckhurst Park, East Sussex to preserve pure bred Sussex cattle. It is suggested there are only 160 pure bred cattle in existence.

6 The US Department of Agriculture has increased its 2019 beef production estimate to 12.38 million tonnes, 0.1 per cent up on 2018.

7 The Deer Working Group has published its report, commissioned by the Scottish Government, ‘The Management of Wild Deer in Scotland.’ The group was tasked to make recommendations for changes that would ensure effective deer management, safeguarding public interests and promote sustainability of wild deer management.

8 Four outbreaks of Glanders in horses have been reported in Turkey. Glanders is a serious bacterial disease of primarily equine animals.

9 The Scottish Dairy Cattle Association has reported a fall in milking herds of net 12 during 2019 with 1,048 fewer dairy cows. The number of dairy herds has fallen to 879 with the average herd size at 203.

10 In December, UK dairies processed 1,162 litres of milk, 0.1 per cent down on the rolling year to November but 5.8 per cent up on November itself. Liquid milk production was up 5.3 per cent on November, cheese production was up 2.6 per cent, butter production by 2.4 per cent and milk powder production up 28 per cent.

11 In December, average butterfat fell by 1.3 per cent, compared to November, but rose by 2.3 per cent compared to a year earlier, to 4.25 per cent. Average protein fell by 1.7 per cent compared to November, but rose 1.1 per cent compared to a year earlier, to 3.41 per cent.

12 Dean Foods and Borden Dairy, two of the largest US milk processors, have filed for administration citing falls in milk consumption which is down 25 per cent on a per capita basis since 2000.

13 A study commissioned by the Woodland Trust has suggested that willow trees grown on pasture grazed by sheep can provide high concentrations of cobalt and zinc thereby correcting deficiencies in the pasture.

14 Defra, the Animal Plant and Health Agency and the Department of Primary Industries in New South Wales have completed a three-day joint, simulated exercise to practice biosecurity measures in the event of an African Swine Fever outbreak.

15 Japan has now reported 53 outbreaks of Classical Swine Fever in domestic swine since September 2018 with 1,373 cases in wild boar with a significant worsening in the geographical location of outbreaks.

16 The investigation into the outbreak of low pathogen Avian Influenza H5N3 outbreak in Suffolk last December has concluded the most likely cause as being contact with wild birds.

17 In the 3 months to December, 7.8 million cases of eggs were packed in the UK, 1 per cent down on a year earlier and 2.2 per cent down on the previous quarter. The average price was 72.8 pence per dozen, 4.1 per cent up on the previous year and 3.2 per cent up on the previous quarter. Production of egg products totalled 24,300 tonnes, 1.8 per cent up on the previous year and 1.1 per cent up on the previous quarter.

18 In December, UK commercial layer chick placings fell by 23 per cent compared to a year earlier, to 2.4 million chicks; broiler chick placings rose by 3.9 percent to 85.2 million chicks; turkey chick placings rose by 7.7 per cent to 800,000 chicks; turkey slaughterings fell by 2.9 per cent to 1.9 million birds; broiler slaughterings fell by 0.1 per cent to 80 million birds; and poultry meat production fell by 2.2 per cent to 145,000 tonnes.

19 Poland has reported two more outbreaks of H5N8 highly pathogenic avian influenza, one in turkeys and one in commercial geese as well as a case in a wild hawk. One case in a private holding of hens has been reported in Slovakia, one case in a unit of 53,000 turkeys in Hungary and one case involving 18,700 laying hens in Romania.

20 John Pointon and Sons, of Cheddleton in Staffordshire, which processes up to 400,000 tonnes of animal by-products a year into pet foods, tallow, oils and fuel, has been bought by ABP.

+ Inputs / Supply business

1 BASF has received approval for Revystar-EX, a fungicide which is claimed to offer protective and curative activity on all cereals against septoria, rust, mildew, ramularia, rhychosporium and net blotch.

2 The Agricultural Price Index for November for animal feeding stuffs rose by 0.1 per cent, compared to October, while there were increases of 0.6 per cent for vehicle maintenance and 0.2 per cent for building maintenance but there were falls of 1.6 per cent for energy and lubricants and 2 per cent for fertilizers. Compared to a year earlier there were increases of 0.6 per cent for veterinary services, 2.3 per cent for vehicle maintenance and 1.2 per cent for building maintenance while there were falls of 0.8 per cent for seeds, 6.1 per cent for energy and lubricants, 10.3 per cent for fertilizers, 4.6 per cent for chemicals and 8.3 per cent for animal feeding stuffs.

3 Corteva Agriscience has launched Korvetto, a broad-leaved herbicide for use on oilseed rape to control cleavers, mayweed and thistles.

4 Planning approval has been given for a new feedmill near Thirsk in North Yorkshire which will produce 150,000 tonnes of bulk ruminant feed each year.

+ Marketing

1 In the 12 weeks to 29 December lamb sales fell by 4 per cent in volume compared to the previous year, beef sales fell by 1 per cent and pigmeat sales fell by 4.5 per cent.

2 Exports of UK beef rose by 23 per cent year on year in November to 12,800 tonnes taking exports in 2019 to 125,600 tonnes, up 25 per cent on a year earlier, but in value terms the growth is only 8 per cent.

3 With French production of lamb static and reductions in imports from Ireland, Spain and New Zealand of 4 per cent, 4 per cent and 16 per cent respectively, the UK has increased exports to the country by 8 per cent. The UK is already the largest exporter by far, sending 35,000 tonnes to France. Production in Germany was similarly static in 2019 and a fall in imports from New Zealand of 15 per cent enabled the UK to increase exports by 15 per cent to 10,000 tonnes.

4 While food exports in the year to November were up by 5.2 per cent, November exports fell by 20 per cent compared to October while the EU took the smallest share of food exports in November since 2014.

5 Following the imposition of US trade tariffs on cheese in November, EU exports to the US fell by 26 per cent compared to a year earlier. However, while UK volume exports were virtually unchanged, the average unit price fell from £7,355 per tonnes in November 2018 to £5,966 per tonne a year later, suggesting that UK exporters reduced prices to retain the market.

6 China has reduced import tariffs on dairy products with the exception of fresh cheese and curds. UK exports of dairy products to China in the 11 months to November totalled £15 millions, up 86 per cent on the previous year.

+ Miscellaneous

1 Food Waste Champion, Ben Elliot, has announced the first ‘Food Waste Action Week’ to start on 11 May.

2 The Agricultural Engineers Association has released details of tractor sales in 2018. John Deere increased its share by 3.5 per cent to 31.9 per cent followed by New Holland, up 2.6 per cent to 18.4 per cent, and Case, up 3.4 per cent to 10.9 per cent. Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Kubota and JCB all saw falls in market share.

+ Postscripts

1. There was a power failure in a Dublin department store last week – three hundred people were stranded on the escalators for more than five hours.

2. “O’Leary, your glass is empty, will you be having another one?”

“And what would I be doing with two empty glasses?” O’Leary replied.

3. Young Teresa came home with some dreadful news. “I’m pregnant” she cried.

“And how do you know it’s yours? shouts her father.

4. PADDY: “Hey Shaun, what’s Mick’s surname?

SHAUN: “Mick who?”

5. PADDY: “If you can guess how many pheasants I’ve got in me bag you can have both of them”.

SHAUN: Three.

6. Mrs Murphy said: “I don’t tink me husband has been faithfull to me”.

“Why’s that?” said Mrs O’Toole.

“Me last child don’t look anything like him”.

7. Mrs O’Toole said: “I can only tell you this bit of scandal once, because I promised Mrs O’Leary I would never repeat it”.

8. Murphy had a rope hanging from a tree in his garden. Shamus asked him what it was for. “It’s me weather guide” said Murphy. “If it’s swinging back and forth, it’s windy and if it’s wet, it’s been raining.

9. Murphy was told by the doctor he had two weeks to live – so he chose the last week in July and the first week in August.

10. Colleen dropped a Euro coin, intending it to fall into the blind man’s hat on the pavement, but missed. As quick as a flash, he scooped it up and put it in the hat. “You’re not blind” she said. “No I’m not” said Paddy, “Its Murphy whose blind. I’m just filling in for him while he’s gone to the pictures”.

11. “We’re looking for a Treasurer for the Xmas fund”, said Paddy.

“Didn’t you take on a new one last month? said Murphy.

“That’s the one we’re looking for”, Paddy replied.

12. Father O’Flaherty asked Mrs O’Reilly how many children she had. Four was the reply. “That’s a good Catholic woman you are, and when will you be having the next?” he asked. “I’m not Father”, she replied. “I read that every fifth child born in the world is Chinese”.

13. The Dublin pensioners club go on a mystery tour every Wednesday and, to make it interesting, they have a sweep to guess where they are going. Seamus, the coach driver, has won five weeks on the trot.

+ Business Box

No smoke without fire!

There are always rumours but not this time. The All Party Parliamentary Group on Inheritance and Intergenerational Fairness has recommended a radical reform of Inheritance Tax.

The proposal is to replace the flat-rate of 40 per cent and numerous reliefs with a flat-rate gift tax payable both on lifetime and death transfers. All reliefs other than the spouse and charity exemptions would be abolished and the Capital Gains Tax uplift on death would also be abolished. The flat-rate as proposed would be between 10 and 20 per cent.

An annual gifts exemption would apply, suggested as being £30,000, and a death exemption, possibly at the current rate of £325,000.

There would be no exemptions for the main home, businesses or farms.

It would be necessary for taxpayers to report to HM Revenue & Customs all gifts with a value in excess of £10,000.

There would be an option for farms and businesses to settle any tax liability over 10 years by instalments free of interest.

All pension funds remaining at death would be taxed unless passing to the spouse.

Trusts would lose the right to the £325,000 band and discretionary trusts would be liable to an annual tax charge. Any changes to a life tenant’s interest in a trust would be deemed to be a gift by the life tenant.

The APPG estimates that, over the next 5 years, 16,380 estates will benefit from Business Property Relief and Agricultural Property relief at a cost to the Exchequer of £5.85 billions.

The APPG comments ‘family businesses and farmers may object to the loss of 100% BPR and APR, but the 1 or 2 per cent a year could generally be funded out of net income.’

Compare this statement to the results of the England Farm Business Survey for 2018/19 where the average return on capital was a negative 0.1 per cent. This is hardly likely to improve with changes to the Basic Payment Scheme looming.

The recommendations will be devastating to farms and small and medium-sized businesses as well as those people who want to help the next generation get a start in life. Strong resistance is imperative.

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The MFU was edited from

1991 to 2006 by John Nix,

Emeritus Professor of

Farm Business Management

at Imperial College London