Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

SFP `Will Give Farmers `More Opportunities'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

SFP `Will Give Farmers `More Opportunities'

Article excerpt

Byline: By Anna Lognonne

The new Single Farm Payment will provide farmers with more opportunities to diversify their businesses, which will in turn protect the country's family farms, according to farming accountancy firm Armstrong Watson.

Under the new Single Farm Payment scheme subsidy payments will be cut by around 50% in the next seven years.

But Armstrong Watson says that many of its clients are already using the changes to develop business skills and reach a wider market through their knowledge.

Andrew Robinson, head of agriculture consultant at the Hexham based firm, said: "The new CAP regulations mean that instead of subsidies to encourage more food production, the EU is paying farmers to look after their land as an environmental steward.

"Smaller farms may feel they are being pushed towards diversification and are being actively encouraged to do anything other than farm.

"Diversification comes in several forms but in general means looking for additional sources of income to supplement farming income. At its most basic this can be finding a way of simplifying the farming operation to release a family member to take up employment away from the farm.

"Another form of diversification is to move away from mainstream farming into non-food crops or more exotic forms of livestock to earn better margins. "Finally, land and buildings can be used for non-farming purposes, whether it is tourism related, starting up a new business yourself, or renting buildings out."

The introduction of the Single Farm Payment can be described as both a threat to traditional farms and an opportunity to diversify businesses more easily.

In the first year the amount of SFP will be similar to the old subsidy payments, but between now and 2012 many businesses will see their payments slashed by 50% or more.

This will be the case for many livestock farmers in Cumbria and Mr Robinson said diversification in some shape or form will be essential if they are to remain viable in the long term. …

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