February Professional Ponderings

February Professional Ponderings

 

Here to Help

 

Once again it falls upon on me to write this month’s Professional Ponderings in what seems like the first time for a long time. I for one will be glad to see the back of January, as it was yet another wet and dreary month with the exception of the odd day shooting here or there! By the time this is published, Boris will have delivered Brexit and all of our concerns regarding immigration and our sovereignty will have disappeared! Joking aside, irrespective of your stance on Brexit, or your political persuasion generally, it is clear that the Tories emphatic victory in the general election has had a positive impact on the economy generally; it remains to be seen whether this is a short term lift or the start of an upward curve. Despite all the ‘doom and gloom’ being reported, suffice to say that you are not alone – Bletsoes are here to help and have the capacity and expertise to do so. To use the infamous Latin phrase coined by Horace “Carpe Diem” and seize the day.

 

Agriculture is back in the headlines following the introduction of the Agriculture Bill to parliament in the middle of January. We live in uncertain times, and I am afraid that agriculture is no exception; uncertainty is not exclusively a threat to business, it can also be an opportunity. The future of agriculture will largely depend on the emerging Agriculture Bill. There are a great many unknowns what the final Agriculture Bill will look like, but the headlines are:

 

  • Shift away from the European Union Common Agricultural Policy and Direct Payments.
  • Move towards “Public Money for Public Goods”, such as financial reward for cleaner air, water, reduce flooding etc.
  • Phasing out Direct Payments over the 7 year “transition” period, which will start from next year (2021) and will see Direct  Payments reduced to nil by 2028.

Emphasis on soil and protection of soil and rewarding those that protect soils and possible regulation on agrochemical use.

Amidst that uncertainty concerning the Agriculture Bill, there is clearly continued pressure on the industry from many directions, whether that be the growing trend to move away from eating meat, or the continued pressure surrounding climate change. The agricultural industry has proved time and time again that it is flexible, and I’m sure overcoming these latest challenges will be no exception.

 

Much of this pressure and the concerns are of course outside of our   control and dictated by the media, and it is perhaps a waiting game. However, there are of course some measures that can be taken at a farm level to reduce the pressures and strains on the farming business, should the industry be detrimentally effected; I believe that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid MP conceded that Brexit would inevitably cause short term pain. Those measures might be:

  • Refinancing borrowings whilst interest rates remain low.
  • Reducing reliance on the Basic Payment Scheme, perhaps by entering into alternative schemes, such as Countryside Stewardship.
  • Considering share farming/contract farming arrangements.
  • Increasing farm diversification, even if that is small scale, such as letting out barns for non-agricultural use (subject to planning).
  • Generally increasing efficiency on the farm.

 

Every farm business is different but many of the issues that we see are very similar, and we feel that we are well placed to assist your farming business to adapt to the threats and opportunities that these uncertain times bring.

 

Following Verity’s update concerning BPS 2019 payments, the RPA have issued a further update on progress concerning BPS, Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship 2019 payments, as well as indicative 2020 plans for those schemes.

 

In short, the RPA have apparently paid 97% of all eligible BPS payments in respect of 2019; the BPS 2020 application window, as well as the Countryside Stewardship and Environmental Stewardship Annual Revenue Claim window, should open in March 2020; and the Countryside Stewardship application window for agreements with a 1st January 2021 start date should open in February 2020. As ever, if you are having issues with payments from the Rural Payments Agency, then do please do let us know and we will try to assist you where possible.

 

We are continuing to assist clients who have telephone masts situated on their land. There remains a great deal of pressure from the telephone mast operators to reduce rents, and an equal amount of reluctance from landlords to accept reduced rents. As such the industry has reached a stalemate. It will be interesting to see whether the government will intervene, as this current stalemate could substantially slowdown the rollout of 5G, which is of high priority to the government.   Incidentally, landowners are now being warned of the hidden risks and responsibilities associated with having telecommunication masts on their land. The advice from industry experts is to request information and radiation exclusions zones from the operators of telecom masts located on the land. Telecom masts do emit radio waves which can effect health and therefore require exclusion zones to protect people. Due to the technology used with 5G these exclusion zones will be expanded significantly. When applying for planning permission for a larger mast, operators are only required to confirm that their masts will comply with industry set guidelines. As such, landowners may not be able to assess the effects of the mast on buildings, land or other activities. For landowners, there could be unforeseen issues with buildings, which could be within the exclusion zone, potentially putting workers, businesses or livestock at risk.

 

Finally, we are in the process of renewing Grasskeeping Agreements for the forthcoming grazing season. If you have any surplus grazing or require any grazing, then please do not hesitate to contact me, so that we may add you to our database.

 

I am not scheduled to write the Ponderings again until October, so I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for the remainder of the 2020 harvest farming year and hope that the weather improves.

 

Chris Templar

Salaried Partner

 

 

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