The Farming Social Hub - a voice for the farming community

Financial concerns for smaller-scale farmers

Growing concerns about the viability of their businesses in the wake of subsidy changes are causing famers headaches as they contemplate a future without BPS.

More than a third of farmers fear their businesses will no longer be viable, according to a study by the Rural Agriculture Group (RAG).

The survey spoke to farmers from across the north of England and Scotland and included dairy, livestock and arable farmers. Aside from financial concerns about their own futures, the survey also revealed that less than a third of respondents had a succession plan in place and more than half did not have an up to date will in place.

Currently, the top three concerns for farmers according to the survey are: climate change and the environment; the future of subsidies; and cash flow.

Much concern about the phasing out of BPS comes from smaller, family firms, something reiterated by the Prince of Wales, when he spoke of the ‘demise of small, family farms, which are the backbone of our rural communities’.

Sounding a note of optimism, Defra Secretary George Eustice said: “I know from the work we have done and a lot of the work that others like AB Agri have done – farm profitability is not about size of enterprise and there are many smaller family farm businesses which are technically proficiently and more resilient as lower overheads than often larger operations will.”

Speaking about encouraging uptake of  the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI), Mr Eustice said those opting in would be eligible for a payment between £25-70 per hectare.

“Those that embrace the SFI will be able to recoup the money they would have lost through the reduction of BPS,” he told reporters.

“But if they do not want to then that is a choice for them to make. The whole point about future policy is that it is not about top down rule books dictating what should happen but about supporting choices individual farm businesses will make. “