Agents Eye – December 2014
Goodbye 2013; Welcome 2014 – Focus on Growth and Cash flow
When we look back over 2013 we had the coldest spring for years, impacting on yields and higher livestock feed costs; the knock on for some is only starting to come through, particularly in the livestock sector. But the weather has a funny way of righting itself sometimes and who would have thought we would have such a fantastic summer and mild autumn; it was even sunny for my wedding thankfully! NFU lobbying over modulation has been a job well done and getting agreement at 12% for the next 4 years is a good Christmas bonus. Well worth the subs!
However, it’s so disappointing to see that the press only ever pick up on the negative angle and particularly the BBC, only ever listen and pamper to the calls of the environmentalists, saying that this “is a bad day for the bird population”. They couldn’t be further from the truth; it’s about time that the farming community, NFU, CLA and others did their own research on increase in wildlife numbers and actually spread the good work that is being done on farms both through schemes and voluntary work. It always seems easier to blame farmers and pesticides on declining bird populations but never mentioned other factors that impact on bird numbers. Increasing birds of preys whilst not a bad thing, does impact on certain bird species that are at risk.
We need to be more proactive in our promotion in the press channels that the everyday person listens to and reads; that by the way is not the farming press! Don’t give the anti-brigade any excuses to have a dig at agriculture, let’s be proud of our business sector.
The rural economy is never dull, and no doubt in the next 12 months we’ll be facing some good times and bad. Ability to generate cash flow is always key and for those who have faced increasing pressure on debt over the past 2 years, you need to focus heavily on cash flow. Those businesses that have grown significantly over the past 10 years, have had the cash flow to do that; too many I believe get fixated by year end accounts, but ultimately you need to grip what flow of funds is forthcoming over the next 24 months in order to asses where you will see your business growth.
With the economy growing again, we are already seeing projects start to kick off, whether that is in infrastructure, planning or major utility repairs, all of which will impact and provide opportunities for land occupiers. If you’re thinking of a project, firstly make sure you assess the risk and ensure the reward is commensurate with the level of risk and secondly make sure you spend time planning, identifying all the jobs, whose responsible, timescales and cost. Get a good team together and one that can help you through this journey, it never is as easy or as quick as you first imagine.
Countryside Stewardship Scheme: Simplified Options