News in Brief: December 2017

Prepare for a Turbulent Brexit

Sir Ivan Rogers, former UK permanent representative to the European Union, gave the inaugural Henry Plumb Lecture at the Royal Society last week.  In it, he warned farmers to prepare for a turbulent Brexit in which agricultural interests might be traded off in favour of other industry sectors.  No deal would be a very bad deal indeed for British farming, he said, as WTO tariffs on agricultural produce are much higher than other products.  He also warned that trade deals with other countries such as the US would involve very difficult negotiations in which agricultural interests again could be sacrificed for gains elsewhere.

Antibiotic Use in Game Rearing

A recent report has stated that antibiotic use in the rearing of gamebirds fell by 36% in 2017, comfortably exceeding the ambitious target of 25%.  Use in compound feeds fell even more, by 53% on the previous year.  Although progress was described as astonishing and exemplary, it should be noted that the starting point was extremely high and that antibiotics are still being used prophylactically by many game farms and keepers.

Budget Contents

The Chancellor’s Budget last week contained very little of relevance specifically to farming and the rural economy.  From next April, increases in Business Rates will be based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) of inflation rather than the Retail Price Index (RPI).  As this is usually lower than the RPI, this may be of some benefit to diversified farm businesses, as will the decision not to reduce the £85,000 threshold for VAT.  The continued freeze on fuel duty will also benefit those in rural areas who rely on their cars.

Farmcare to cease operational farming

Farmcare, formerly Co-op Farms, one of the largest farming enterprises in the country with around 32,500 acres, has decided to give up ‘operational’ farming.  It will seek partners to enter into joint ventures on its land instead.  It is not clear at this stage what form these joint ventures will take.

News in Brief compiled by Andrew Davis, Wessex area chairman for CRAG. The views represented in this article are not necessarily those of the Conservative Party as a whole.