Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Is Your Farm Ready for Reform?

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Is Your Farm Ready for Reform?

Article excerpt

Byline: By David Oliver

September 29, 2003, was a critically important day for UK farmers, and particularly those in Northumberland and County Durham.

It was the day on which the EU agriculture ministers finally "signed off" the legal texts for the new structure of farm subsidy payments for the next 10 years. The so-called "Mid-Term" reforms of the Common Agriculture Policy.

Now that the politicians have reached agreement and made a final commitment, it is a case of when, not if, the reforms are implemented. The UK government(s) still have to make some further national decisions as to exactly how the implementation will take place in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, it is now certain that January 2005 will be the kick-off for the biggest change in farm support mechanisms (and the whole farming economy) that any of us have seen in living memory. It is going to be vital for everyone who runs, or has a financial interest in, a farming business to understand, and begin to get to grips with three things as quickly as possible.

These are:

1. Exactly what changes are involved in the reforms.

2. What the impact of those changes is likely to be on their particular business.

3. How they should respond.

Unfortunately it is going to be some time (probably Christmas) before we see the small print of how the reforms are going to be implemented in England. But that does not mean you should simply sit back and wait for more information before you begin to tackle these issues.

You may think that 2005 seems like a long time away, so there is no great rush to make any decisions or take any actions just yet. However, the most serious mistake to make in this situation would be to wait and do nothing.

For instance, people who rent in or let out land on short-term tenancies or grass parks (and there are a lot of them in both Northumberland and Durham) are going to need to think very hard over the next few months.

Similarly, people who buy or sell beef cattle will need to come to terms with the fact that there will be no headage payments or slaughter premia on finishing cattle, and dairy farmers are going to have to give careful consideration to their milk quota situation. …

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