Industry facing biggest challenge for 50 years
The number and m agni tu de of the issues and challenges currently facing agriculture are greater than they have been for more than 50 years.
Writing in the 2021 issue of the John Nix pocketbook – for many years viewed as the bible of agricultural management costings– veteran agricultural commentator Denis Chamberlain said that the joint challenges of Covid-19, Brexit and awful weather led the pack of the industry-wide challenges.
Chamberlain, a former editor of Farmers Weekly and chief executive of the Royal Agricultural Society, said that Covid-19 had had an effect on all sup - ply chains, market vola - ti li ty and public spending, all of which areas are explored in detail in a dedicated analysis of the effect of Coronavirus on UK agriculture within the volume.
“With sudden changes in where, how and what people eat, the responsibility of the food and farming sector to keep people fed and therefore healthy has been considerable ,” said Graham Red man, who currently compiles the pocketbook.
“Couple this with some hiccups in food supply and the overall challenge has been substantial.”
However he made it clear that despite the difficulties, nobody in the UK had gone
hungry because of food supply chain failures.
Pointing out how remarkably adaptive the industry had been to achieve that, he highlighted how the food supply industry, including farming had demonstrated resilience and flexibility, responding to the challenge and responsibility of keeping people fed.
Brexit and the resulting rewriting of trading relationships and farm sup - port policies was the second major concern cited in Chamberlain’s foreword.
“It could send agriculture in either of two directions in 2021,” said Redman – and the Pocketbook looks at the impacts of trade changes and explores the planned changes to policy throughout the UK in detail.
It explain show po licy plans are changing throughout the UK, leading to varying devolved rules and new ways of farming for many.
“This will offer opportunities for some but lower subsidy claims for others,” said Redman.
Thirdly, as farming emerges from the most unsuitable weather conditions for many crops in most people’ s living memory, it might be well into 2021 by the time financial implications become fully felt, when crop sales do not meet the usual levels on many farms.
The whole-farm costings chapter of the Pocketbook demonstrates wide variations in budgeted profitability in 2021 between sectors and also farmers. The Pocket book has a series of whole-farm costings showing the profit and loss of key farm systems. It includes both figures from the average and the better performers summarised here.
●Also on the advisory front, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has appointed eight new academic fellows to lead the organisation on some the biggest challenges and opportunities of the 21 st century.
The new Challenge Change Fellows will be working on areas such as climate change, food production, food security, digital innovation and growing the natural economy.
The Fellows will be developing research and knowledge exchange with businesses and policy makers. They will also be working with colleagues and stu - dents to bring new ideas and perspectives to teaching and commercial activity at SRUC.