Category Archive: Agriculture

Agriculture Bill passes into law

Wednesday 11th of November saw arguably one of the most significant pieces of legislation pass into law that will shape the future of agricultural policy for the next 25 years. The Agriculture Bill has taken nearly a year to progress through Parliament to emerge in its current form. This new legislation aims to reward farmers for providing “public goods” including better air and water quality, enhancing wildlife, and improving soils.

Measures to reduce the effect of climate change will also be a key part of future agricultural policy. Alongside this, the legislation indicates that farmers will be encouraged to boost productivity and become more efficient with developing paths for retiring farmers to leave as well as new entrants to enter the industry. Over the last couple of years, we have read about the Bill and its aims in many articles like this, however, we now must ask the question what does this mean for farmers and what can they do to prepare for the changes to come?

We have known for some time that direct payments will start to reduce from the 2021 Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) year with the last payment being received in 2017. The average farmer relies heavily on these payments to maintain their profitability and in some cases is the difference between a profitable business and a loss-making one. This will be worrying for many farmers however during this transitional period farmers will be able to apply for alternative measures of support to improve productivity and they will have access to the new Environmental Land Management scheme that will reward farmers for what they do.

As we only have the framework at present it will be some time to assess the financial impact of the new measures against the clear removal of the BPS monies. It is encouraging to see that existing Rural Development Scheme agreements like the Environmental and Countryside Stewardship schemes will be supported, however, it’s disappointing that there is still a lack of detail on how lump sum payments for retiring farmers might work. There is also a lot of work to be done to improve transparency and fairness in the supply chain, but the Act does grant powers to improve this area.

Following successful lobbying, food security is now included alongside measures for trade however it is important to note that the Government did not commit to ensuring that future trade agreements included an obligation for imports to meet health, welfare, and environmental standards which may further fuel the national debate on this subject. More detail is also needed on landlord and tenant issues as much of what was originally proposed did not find its way into the Act. The Act also enables the Government to intervene in markets and bring in new marketing standards, carcass classification, and traceability. As expected, there is a lot of questions still to answer and undoubtedly the devil will be in the detail, however, we now know the direction of travel and farmers can start planning for change.

I am often asked by farmers “what should I be doing to protect my business from the changes on the horizon”? Having a plan is vital. Start by sitting down and thinking about your short, medium, and long-term business objectives. Understanding where you’ve been is as important as planning for where you are going. Analyse your past financial performance over the last few years and benchmark that performance against similar farms. This will help to identify where improvements can be made. You can’t just look back though; you must also look forward by preparing an annual farm budget and cash flow forecast so you can successfully plan ahead. Forecast budgeting is a vital tool in becoming more resilient to change and being able and confident in making the right decisions to achieve the objectives you have set yourself. An important part of any business appraisal is to also look at your assets and how to use them to their optimum. Assets include for example land, buildings, and machinery but don’t forget they also include you and the team around you.

There will be without doubt opportunities for farmers on the back of this new legislation, however, there is a risk that farmers will not start planning early enough to seize them. There is also widespread concern within the industry that the removal of area-based direct payments will result in the majority of farms not being able to cover their production costs and in particular within the grazing livestock sector.

Many farmers use this time of year to reflect on the past twelve months and plan for the year ahead, but they must also use this time to consider how this landmark legislation will impact their businesses for the years to come. Start planning for change now.

Talk to our Farm team today, call us on 0333 920 2220

George F. White Makes Multiple Hires and Promotions in Push for Growth

A leading North East property consultancy has expanded its 70+ strong team with the recruitment of seven roles over the last five months as well as three graduates becoming fully qualified chartered surveyors in the last week.

George F. White is experiencing strong growth following the recent launch of a new office, with a fully serviced team, in Durham and partner appointment of Andrew Creighton as head of commercial.

Robyn Peat, managing partner at George F. White, said: “Despite the pandemic-induced challenges, the business has grown steadily this year and we’ve continued to expand our vast range of property, planning and development services, to help meet specific client needs”.

“The team has grown by 10% in the last five months, we’ve taken on a range of new clients in sectors such as architecture, farm business and commercial, and we’ve opened a new office in Durham due to increased demand in the area for housing, planning and farming advice.”

Development surveyor Rhys Jones, commercial surveyor Victoria Huntley and Ellie Exelby, a rural surveyor, are now fully qualified RICS Chartered Surveyors who bring a diverse mix of skills to the consultancy reflecting the expansion of the range of services provided by George F. White.

Jones and Huntley are based in George F. White’s Newcastle office, but operate across the region, and Exelby works out of the consultancy’s Yorkshire office.

Peat added: “It’s great to see Ellie, Rhys and Victoria become qualified surveyors; our record with APC students is something I am very proud of and I look forward to them continuing to develop and grow within the business. They bring to the business the kind of specialist skills we need as we continue to bolster our presence in the region and beyond”.

“While we offer a vast range of diverse and structured consultancy support, it’s also vital to provide specific expertise in each of these areas too”.
“It’s what our clients deserve, and expect, in a turbulent environment with ever changing legislation and regulations.

“We’re here to inform, advise and guide businesses to help them weather some of the toughest conditions they’ll ever experience, and create opportunity at a time of adversity.”

To talk to our team please call 0333 920 2220.

The Future of the Property Market


2020 has been a year of uncertainty in many ways and that includes those in the property market. Whether you are buying or selling your home, a residential or commercial landlord or your interests lie within the rural sector you will no doubt be considering what lies ahead for the property market.

Join our panel of experts at 4:00pm on Wednesday 9th December as they share their thoughts on the future of the property market. For more details and to register click here.



LEADER Grant Aids Growth Of Woodland Management Business

Coquetdale Timber, a woodland management and logging business based in Northumberland, is looking forward to a 40% plus growth in business by the end of the current financial year.

The business, set up in March 2017, is a diversification of the J Robson & Son farming operation and is managed by Michael Robson, his brother Andrew and Michael’s son Thomas from their base at Hepple Whitefield Farm near Rothbury.

Whilst there was a business plan the company has enjoyed organic growth over the last three years as their reputation for being able to be flexible on the scale and type of service provided has spread around the region.

“We were approached by an individual not long after we started the business to construct lambing hurdles and now produce in excess of one thousand a year,” said Thomas.

In addition of the delivery of barn seasoned softwood and hardwood logs to a variety of clients across Northumberland and into Tyneside, an area of the business which will see more than 40% growth year on year, the team also provides a wide range of bespoke services including:

  • Low impact forestry services – hand tree felling, tractor and trailer extraction
  • Woodland management
  • Sawmill services with the ability to cut anything up to 27 inches in diameter on-site as well as mobile timber processing with a cutting range up to 15 inches diameter

“Our client base has grown significantly since the business launch and we are now involved in providing feed troughs, cladding, fence posts and rails, raised beds and even cut oak boards which a local company transform into bespoke mantlepieces for clients purchasing a stove from them” advised Mr Robson.

As part of that growth, the family realised that they needed to invest in equipment that would allow them to scale up the business and ensure they were operating efficiently and effectively.

“We contacted George F. White, as they have been assisting us with the wider farming business for several years, for business advice and where we should be going. After looking through the business Jamie recommended the RDPE LEADER grants to help fund the purchase of new equipment” said Michael.

After looking at a variety of equipment options that the business could use to expand, they opted to purchase a new forwarder trailer and winch. George F. White made contact with the Northumberland Uplands Local Action Group (NULAG); a branch of the RDPE LEADER programme which looked at funding a number of different priorities, such as farm diversification, business growth, woodland and processing. From here George F. White worked closely with the Programme and undertook the initial expression of interest submission. Upon this approval, George F. White liaised with Coquetdale Timber to prepare and submit the grant application, and following a successful outcome then prepared and submitted the appropriate claim.

The business took delivery of the equipment in late 2019 and are already seeing the benefits, “The new trailer and winch allow us to access areas in a considered and low impact way that larger operations may not adopt and at the same time ensuring we can undertake tasks efficiently and safely, it really has already proved its value to the business” commented Thomas. “Being a relatively small business the ability to utilise the LEADER grant programme and reduce the cost outlay by 40% is of huge benefit to us as without this funding the business would not have purchased such a large item. We were extremely happy to be able to rely on the team at George F. White to understand our needs and provide the appropriate assistance is invaluable”.

If you would like to discuss your business and explore the potential options for grants or a strategic review please call 0333 920 2220