I was in an online meeting recently with a number of other businesses and business groups representing different sectors sharing thoughts in the current business environment. The host of the meeting asked everyone to type one word in to the ‘meeting chat’ to describe the feeling amongst the business community. The words ranged from ‘challenging!’ through to ‘OVERWHELMED’ and ‘uncertain’ yet pleasingly ended positively with ‘optimistic’ and ‘vibrant.’ My hope in the farming and food supply chain is that we can move from the former to the latter as soon as possible.
The lack of people to work in so many roles across the food chain, inflated input prices, huge global policy issues like new trade deals and climate change are all interacting, and these issues are now combined with a far from certain policy landscape for farm businesses. This means that the resilience of the food chain is being tested in a way that most people agree has never happened before.
Strength in Yorkshire
The interconnected nature of the food supply chain across the UK, and in focus in places like Yorkshire and the North East with our huge number of diverse farm businesses, food processors and retailers, is in so many ways a strength. The interconnected and ‘just in time’ approach from the food chain demanded by modern society also means that very quickly a problem in one part of the chain is felt in another – be that with crops left unharvested, products not delivered or empty spaces on the supermarket shelves.
The meaty policy topics are what we’re all about in NFU as we look at the global and national issues and distil them down in our lobbying efforts; focussed on what they mean for a farmer on their farm running a farm business. That’s why we’re focussed our lobbying at a national level on making [JM1] sure we have the number of people we need to work on farms and in the food chain, having a trade policy that provides opportunities rather than undermining farm businesses and having a future agricultural policy that encourages vital food production whilst also enhancing the environment.
In the past number of weeks we have seen issues in fertiliser supply, CO2 shortages and most recently disruptions to the fuel supply chain. At times such as these that we are living and farming in the big national issues quickly manifest themselves on farms and too often are out of the management control of the farm business. Those single word answers I mentioned on how it feels in businesses equally apply to farming, and can no doubt be coupled up with a few other short words I can also think of!
This is why we’re increasingly urging farmers to do their best to control the things that they are able to control in their business. This will be the focus of our upcoming session in the Yorkshire Post Country Week conference on ‘resilience’ and we have teamed up with our legal panel firm Crombie Wilkinson, accountancy and banking representatives to look at these in depth. The global and national issues and the long-term trends in the farming and food industry are one thing, but the day to business planning and administration of farm businesses is another and we are here to help.
Support here for you
Our contract checking service, working in partnership with our legal panel firms helps you in checking over paperwork to make sure you are protected as far as is possible in your contractual relations. Our tenants first advice service is there to help you as a tenant farmer as you prepare for discussions and a rent review with your landlord. And finally, we have a plethora of advice and guidance available on all manner of issues connected to the functioning of farm businesses not least the at times thorny issue of succession.
I have heard a number of times from policymakers and from others in farming that with the changes we are now living through and with more changes to come, doing nothing is not an option. The Yorkshire Post County Week conference is an opportunity to be well briefed on the big issues for farming in Yorkshire, and we in NFU are here to advocate, support and advise every step of the way.
Adam Bedford is the North East Regional Director for the NFU.
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