MANY farm businesses in England may struggle to cope with the challenges of new agricultural policies and the withdrawal of the Basic Payment Scheme, as many do not engage in formal business planning or seek external professional advice, according to a survey of rural businesses by the National Innovation Center for Rural Enterprise (NICRE).

More than 60 per cent of farms surveyed did not have a formal written business plan, while almost 80 per cent had not accessed external advice.

A major obstacle since the UK’s exit from the European Union are regulations and red tape.

The survey findings indicate that farms’ experiences of the pandemic differed to those of non-farms, with big changes in agricultural policy and markets dominating their trading situation.

NICRE co-director Janet Dwyer said: “This is a period of monumental change for farmers and while our findings showed that farms fared better than rural businesses in respect of the negative impacts of Covid-19, this doesn’t mean they are better placed to cope with ongoing and future challenges for the rural economy.

“Careful medium-term planning, and building in the headroom to innovate, remain essential tactics for farms’ survival just as much as for other rural businesses, in these challenging times.

“Our evidence that farms are less likely than other rural businesses to engage in formal business planning and seek advice highlights a potential future risk, as farms position themselves to cope with the ongoing transition process and slow roll-out of the new schemes.”

NICRE’s findings regarding farmers’ lack of business planning ring true for Exmoor Farmers Livestock Auctions Ltd which offers support to local farmers, helping them submit applications for the Basic Payment Scheme, Countryside Stewardship Scheme and other grants.

Gethin Rees, from the business, said: “While we have had recent inquiries from farmers regarding forward, business and succession planning, the numbers have been very small, and it is felt that there is a large proportion of farmers who have not put in place any changes as yet or have not thought about what they intend to do.

“There is a general level of concern about the future with many asking different questions about what grants are available and how can they use them and the other support schemes that may come into effect under the new Environmental Land Management Schemes.”