Lincolnshire farmers need to diversify ahead of Brexit according to estate agents

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The EU referendum along with the future of farming in Lincolnshire were high on the agenda at this year’s annual Savills Lincoln Autumn rural seminar.

More than 160 local farmers, landowners and professionals from across the country came together at Stoke Rochford Hall in Grantham to hear from international real estate advisor, Savills; Wilkin Chapman solicitors; and financial management firm, Brewin Dolphin.

Some 71% of delegates were of the mindset that it is business as usual revealing that their company is not suspending decision-making until questions surrounding Brexit and its impact on the UK are answered.

However, the majority felt that the impact of changes to trade agreements would be more significant in the UK than changes to the existing agricultural subsidy regime.

Some 160 people attended the annual meeting

Some 160 people attended the annual meeting

Johnny Dudgeon, head of Savills Lincoln who chaired the seminar, said: “The rural sector is facing uncertain times and we are yet to learn more about the government’s plans for the future.

“What is becoming clear is the significance of future trade agreements and the exchange rate on the fortunes of our industry.

“The broad spectrum of specialist speakers from the property, legal and financial industries at our annual Autumn seminar provided an insightful view into what the future might hold, whilst exploring other means of securing income.

“Diversification is the watchword and we are advising farmers and landowners to look at other income streams including alternative farming methods and development potential.

“Farmers need to understand their business now more than ever and look at whether there are any opportunities to mitigate the impact of any fall in subsidy payments.”

Catherine Harris, head of Agriculture at Wilkin Chapman solicitors, added: “No one really knows what Brexit will look and feel like. Speculation abounds.

“My opinion is that the exit from Europe, whether limited to the UK or involving other countries particularly in the light of future European elections, will eventually happen and farmers need to take a critical look at their businesses now.

“I think that farmers will be facing a future with increasing emphasis on environmental benefits and reduced direct payments. Subsidy payments could also be based on other tests and measures, such as innovation and enterprise.”