Navigating change: The evolution and future of British farming

British farming is at the dawn of a new era.

How farmers react to change – or better still, plan for it – has never been more important.

As the son of a farmer who works within the rural community, there have been clear shifts in the role of a modern farmer over the past few decades, particularly in recent years. From advancements in technology and changes in consumer demand, to the rise in environmental practices, farming is evolving, and farmers are being asked to evolve with it.

A lot of farmers we are talking to are considering how it will impact their business over the next 10 years, and the truth is, legislative changes have led many to re-think their roles.

The Basic Payment Scheme in England has ended and has been replaced by delinked RPA payments which last only until 2027, thus cutting what many would consider to be a vital financial support for the farming industry and leaving doubts for the future.

At the same time, the growing emphasis on sustainable practices to meet environmental concerns – such as nutrient neutrality under the Environment Act 2021 and the drive to Net Zero under the Energy Act 2023 – is resulting in practical and financial challenges in meeting regulatory standards, but also opens new opportunities for land managers.

With growing pressures on modern farmers to adapt, and many isolated both physically and feeling unable to talk about these challenges, having a support network can be a real lifeline.

Fortunately, mental health is no longer a taboo issue, and it is something people are comfortable to talk about which Newton LDP proudly supports through our charitable partnership with the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution (RABI), as well as talking regularly to our clients and community.

There are not only external factors to consider, but internal changes in farming too.

For centuries, if you were born into a farming family, you would be expected to follow suit.

Farms would be passed through generations by default, so that when parents retired, operations were left to their children who had already grown up in a farming environment.

Farming will always be a generational business, but that generation of expectation has softened.

There are solutions for landowners. It doesn’t mean they have to sell their farm, but they can work in cooperation with a neighbour, a tenant or as part of a joint venture, and there’s a lot more collaboration to enjoy going forward.                                               

There is also a reality for farmers that farming – and the farm itself – is an asset which will have increased four to five times in capital terms in the last 20 years, but often is not generating enough return based on the capital that is tied up.

From my experience, it is often the elephant in the room among most families, they recognise when the return is not as it should be, but they don’t like to talk about it.

This is where Newton LDP can help.

Like anything, you can only have a conversation with people if they are open and want to put in place a plan. Having an honest conversation as part of an independent review of your business and understanding your objectives   is the starting point.

Given my background, and the background of our experienced team at Newton LDP, we have the ability to see things from all angles and understand the day-to-day realities that people are faced with. We are involved with a number of business reorganisations, where we have reviewed the assets involved, their values, profitability and future potential in order to guide decision making and move forward.

At the current time, there’s quite a paradox between the drive to Net Zero and the environment on the one hand, but as a famer you have an asset, and the purpose of that asset has historically been to produce food and ultimately make a living.

By taking a proactive approach, understanding where you are and what options are available to you and by implementing a sound plan, farmers can adapt and look forward to a bright future for sustainable British farming.