A Farmer’s Life – Through Rose-Coloured Glasses?

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A recent study by The Prince’s Countryside Fund (PCF) has suggested that the public’s view of the life of today’s farmers is a long way from the truth.

Around 25% of those adults who took part in the study said that they found the idea of giving up their day jobs to go and work on a farm an attractive proposition, having what would appear to be an idealised view of living close to nature and making a comfortable living at the same time. When asked to estimate the annual wage of a farmer, the average came out at just over £46,000 pa, with some even guessing at £75,000. A far cry from Defra’s calculated average of around £20,000!

In reality, more than half of farmers today have to supplement their incomes by doing other things alongside the traditional farming role; and with so many dairy farms now closed and fewer and fewer young people coming into the industry, the future of farming in the UK sits under a cloud of uncertainty.

The PCF concludes that more needs to be done to educate the public on the daily challenges of those working in agriculture, and to enable a better understanding of what it means to be a farmer in modern-day Britain. Better links between the industry and the consumer, they suggest, can help to create awareness and promote British farm products.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

 

Farming in China Exchange Opportunity

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The EU and China are seeking 10 young farmers to take part in a fully funded exchange programme to share knowledge and farming experience.

Programmes for the trip are still being finalised but the aim is to include farm visits and discussions, visits to research institutes, government meetings and various training workshops.

The main objectives of the programme are to:

  • Facilitate effective sharing and dissemination of experiences and best practices
  • Enhance capacity building in modern farming techniques
  • Reinforce cooperation in green development, environmental protection practices and sustainable agriculture
  • Produce recommendations to practitioners and policy-makers on sustainable farming practices
  • Increase the mutual understanding between young professional farmers and agricultural professionals from both sides, develop close collaboration and ties, and deepen the international cooperation and exchange in agriculture between China and the EU.

To find out more and to apply click here.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Apply Now For Tesco Future Farmer Foundation

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The Tesco Future Farmer Foundation is looking for young people in UK & Irish farming who are keen to develop a successful future in agriculture.

Running from 19 June until 29 September 2017, the programme is available for those aged between 20 and 35 from all farming sectors, and aims to help in four particular areas:

  • Business Skills Workshops with leading experts to help get to the grips with the financial, business and life skills needed to succeed.
  • Supply Chain Events including visits to leading food, farming and retail businesses to help build knowledge of supply chains across a host of different sectors.
  • Business Mentors with the skills and experience to help guide you towards your goals.
  • Training Bursary with funding available for further technical or business training.

The aim of the programme is to inspire and develop the next generation of growers and producers and more information, as well as the application form, can be found HERE.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Ejected Farmers Could Be Entitled To Compensation

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Farmers who HMRC have ejected from the Agricultural Flat-Rate Scheme (AFRS) may be entitled to a repayment or compensation.

An opinion from the advocate general to the European Court of Justice has led to the belief that many who feel they have been unfairly removed from the VAT simplification scheme may be able to make compensation claims or ask to re-join the scheme.

The AFRS is a simplified scheme under which farmers with qualifying agricultural forestry or fishing activities do not have to submit VAT returns. Instead they receive a flat rate compensation of 4% on the value of their sales. It is thought to be used by several hundred UK farmers.

In some years some farmers will gain a net benefit and in other years they may suffer a net loss. HMRC take it upon themselves to withdraw farmers’ AFRS certificates if the compensation they receive from the scheme results in a farmers gaining a greater benefit than he would under a normal VAT registration.

The opinion of the advocate general felt that farmers cannot be excluded for reasons other than specified under the European VAT directive. Instead it could be deemed that the withdrawing of certificates is an indication that HMRC are failing to properly implement and regulate the scheme.

While the European Court does not always agree with the opinions of its advocate generals, if it were to do so in this case, many farmers wrongly removed from the scheme would be entitled to a VAT refund or some other form of compensation.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Rural Payments Agency Risking Wrath of Farmers

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The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) has managed to spark outrage with its latest gaffe.

More than 600 letters have been sent out to farmers who they think were overpaid under the Basic Payment Scheme in 2015 or 2016. The fact that really grates is that some claimants have been waiting more than 18 months for their underpayments to be rectified. In some instances, this is understood to be worth tens of thousands of pounds.

The Basic Payment Scheme is the biggest of the European Union’s rural grants and payments designed specifically to help the farming industry. Claimants apply once a year – usually in May – and payments begin in December.

However since the scheme began in 2015 it has been fraught with problems, with the majority of payments being late from the off.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Farmers and Banks – a Relationship on the Rocks?

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A recent survey undertaken by YouGov reveals that farming businesses feel that they are not getting sufficient support from their banks.

Over 1,000 small and medium farming businesses took part in the survey, with over 30% stating they would like to see more commitment to the agricultural industry from banks.  One of the biggest concerns was a lack of specialist knowledge to fully comprehend the support the sector requires.  Many also called for greater transparency regarding fees and charges.

As Brexit negotiations continue, there is still considerable apprehension in the farming community about the future of aid and its effect on the industry.  This, coupled with the feeling that banks do not fully understand the particular pressures they are currently facing, suggests that farmers are becoming increasingly frustrated in their relationships with the banking industry.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Welsh Government Consultation

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The Welsh Government has recently launched a significant consultation Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources. It represents a wide-ranging and radical series of ideas in agriculture, designated landscapes, access, water abstraction and drainage, forestry, regulation and more. See the document here.

Rebecca Williams, CLA Cymru Director says, “Land owners, managers and farmers should focus on these proposals, understand their implications and assist us in providing a strong evidence-based response to the Welsh Government.”

As well as presenting a range of very technical issues which will impact on farmers, landowners and foresters, the consultation is seeking views on legislation that may be needed post-Brexit.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

 

Last Chance for Welsh Dairy Farmers

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Dairy farmers in Wales have until this Friday to apply for an aid scheme worth £1,800.

The EU Conditional Aid Scheme is only open to dairy farmers in Wales and, specifically, those that were in milk production with a supply contract on 1 January 2016.

To qualify before the deadline at midnight on Friday 30 June, producers need to complete an online questionnaire with information about their farm business. In return, farmers will receive the payment by the end of September as well as a report, prepared by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), identifying business strengths and weaknesses and a comparison against industry performance indicators.

The link for the questionnaire as well as more information can be found on the AHDB website.

Farms with land falling outside of Wales can still participate in the scheme if the majority of the land is in Wales.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

DEFRA Revises TIFF Estimate

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DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) has now published revised estimates which suggest Total Income From Farming (TIFF) in the UK fell by around 7.5% in 2016. This is significantly different from their original figure of 1.5% reported earlier in the year, with the Government blaming incorrect data accounting for the error in the previous estimate. The TIFF is calculated using income from farm production and subsidies, less costs.

The revised figures confirm the slump in the value of UK farm produce, resulting from falling production and poor prices for dairy and cereal farmers last year. This is perhaps surprising given that there had been some good news with improved productivity in the beef, sheep and pork sectors and the cost of fertilisers and feeds dropping. It seems, however that these factors were not enough to pull back the negative impact of falling revenues overall.

Despite income for farmers having dropped consecutively for the last 4 years, there is optimism that 2017 will see something of a recovery with commodity markets trending upwards at the present time.

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.

Are You Opening Your Farm This Sunday?

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This Sunday, over 1,500 farmers across the UK will be opening their farms for visitors as part of Open Farm Sunday. Although some people are still unaware of what “Open Farm Sunday” is, its widespread appeal cannot be denied. Since its inception in 2006 farmers have welcomed 1.8 million visitors to their farms for one Sunday each year.

Organised by LEAF (Linking Environment And Farming), it seeks to encourage farmers to open their farms up to members of the public for a day to share the farm experience.  Farmers are encouraged to plan events that are manageable and should be reminded that they need not put on an extravagant show for hundreds of people.  Activities may include a farm walk, nature trail, tractor and trailer rides, demonstrations, pond dipping, activities for children, a mini farmer’s market or farm shop.

LEAF offer free help and support, including access to local coordinators, practical support and advice regarding issues such as health and safety.

The event gives farmers a great opportunity to share their enthusiasm for farming and offers potential business benefits too, with the opportunity for farms to raise their local profile and improve community relations.

If you would like to find out more about Open Farm Sunday you can log on to: www.farmsunday.org

Please note: This article is a commentary on general principles and should not be interpreted as advice for your specific situation.