British farmers are being offered a lump sum payment to leave the industry – but at what cost to agriculture?


Peter Gittins, University of Leeds

via Beef Central (Australia) - 21/06/2022


Farming is one of the oldest professions in the world. And in the UK, the people who farm are a part of a rapidly ageing workforce. Four in ten British farmers are over 65, while the average age is 59.


To attract younger blood into the fields, the UK government is running a temporary scheme to entice some of these older professionals into retirement. The idea is that they can apply to receive a lump sum exit payment of up to £100,000 – as long as they either sell their land, rent it out, give it away or plant trees on it.


This could enable new, younger and possibly more entrepreneurial farmers to enter the sector as land becomes available. However, the scheme is not solely designed for new entrants – others may benefit from the opportunity to buy new land, including neighbouring farms looking to expand, or investors seeking to diversify their portfolios.


On my family farm (and no doubt many others) the exit scheme, which we refer to as a “golden handshake”, is a hot topic. But my 69-year-old father, who owns a 250-acre upland farm in west Yorkshire, is not tempted.


For a start, he is confident that he will continue to receive government subsidies (albeit at a reduced rate), so would not necessarily gain financially from the exit scheme. Instead, it would put pressure on him to transfer the farm, perhaps prematurely. Farm succession is a long and complex process, and my father has no plans to retire any time soon.


Nor is he interested in doing anything else. He left school at 14 to work on the family farm and and has devoted his life to it. He has never taken a holiday away, and would find it difficult – if not impossible – to not be involved if he did transfer ownership.


But some farmers will gladly put away their wellies and take the government up on its offer in an increasingly challenging economic environment. Making a farm profitable is difficult for farmers across Europe, with a reported 4 million closing between 2005 and 2015 (with knock on damage to other businesses including agricultural suppliers, machinery repair services and animal feed companies)...


A fresh crop? ...  


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