Planning ahead in uncertain times
We are all tired from hearing about Brexit, whether you are for leaving or staying within the European Union, but I dare say it will all come to a head within the next couple of months as a general election looks very likely.
But in among all this talk farmers are having to take a view and manage their farm businesses in the best way they can. It is difficult to manage a farm business in the short term as actions taken now, for example buying a replacement ram or planting barley, will not earn any income until well into next year and beyond. However a long term view still needs to be considered.
Now this is where the problem lies – trying to make a long term decision in and among the uncertainty of Brexit.
When you are reviewing a farm business you look at the internal and external factors that could affect it. The internal factors are the farm’s strengths and weaknesses and the external factors come from outside of the farm – ‘the external environment’ – and are the opportunities and threats.
You can do a lot about the internal factors, but you cannot do much about the external factors apart from protecting your business, especially from potential threats if possible, which is the annoying issue when making a long term decision.
The only real action individual farmers can do about external treats, such as the potential collapse of the UK export market, is speak as one voice through organisations such as the National Farmers Union and I must say listening to a few television interviews recently the NFU is making the farmers' concerns loud and clear and the government should be in no doubt of the consequences of not maintaining a fair and equal trade with the EU.
With regards to what farmers should bedoing themselves on an individual basis there is no doubt and that should be to actively and continuingly push to improve their cost of production.
Whatever the system, whatever the enterprise, make sure the cost of production is as low as it can be, without reducing the quantity, quality and welfare of your production.
Do you know your accurate cost of production? How does it compare with others? How can you improve it? And so on.
Some of the best advice comes from the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). AHDB helps to make Great Britain’s livestock, dairy and agriculture sectors become more successful, providing market information to improve supply chain transparency and stimulating demand in the UK and export markets.
They support business and science research and have amassed a great deal of excellent information. This information and knowledge is critical in improving the overall cost of production. Please go onto the AHDB website and find out how they can help you.
Chris Jones is involved in land-based education, training and mentoring