With the looming general election, as well as the new SFI agreements from July, the land management sector is facing yet more change.

Here, I share some thoughts on why resilience is so important for farming and rural businesses, and what the next government needs to think about concerning agriculture. 

This month, we’ve discussed diversification and its benefits. Ensuring that farms remain resilient to future shocks, whether financial or climate-related, is absolutely essential – both at the individual farm level and nationally. I think one thing we have to remember is that farms are businesses. But, perhaps uniquely, these businesses are imperative for social well-being. Food, clean water, clean air, access to green space, well-managed landscapes, and cultural heritage, are all linked to or dependent on the farmed environment. What happens to farming businesses, in this sense, impacts us all.

Because of this, if farmers started going bankrupt, we would all suffer severe consequences. Yet farms are massively exposed to climate risk – a risk that farmers can’t control but, nonetheless, totally changes their bottom line. Diversification can be a great way to reduce a farm’s risk profile. On my family farm, for example, we are building different agri-environment schemes, especially the Sustainable Farming Incentive, as well as branching out by repurposing farm buildings for example. We need to think about how funding – whether from the Government or the private sector – can work to support diversified incomes (and therefore resilience) of our farms.

Agriculture takes up the majority of the UK’s land, which is one of the reasons that government money needs to go to farmers to deliver public goods. These services, mentioned above, which farms deliver means it’s imperative that any government recognises the value of farms to society and inversely, their importance to national risk. As the election draws nearer, the differences between parties and their stances on agriculture is becoming more apparent. Yet inside any party’s thoughts on agriculture, it is irrefutable that we need to raise resilience, reduce the risk of climate change, and improve social welfare. 

When we talk about policy asks for government, we often return to this idea of “Making Land Digital” – a clear digital framework which allows land managers to make spatially targeted resilient future plans and access sufficient funding to implement them, underpinned by a consistent and audible approach to trace return on investment and create confidence in nature markets. This means ensuring no double funding, no fraud, and aligned logic between how public sector and private sector money is spent and allocated. Not only do we need alignment on the value of the right tree in the right place, for example, it has to be cost-effective for the farmers and land managers to access this funding.

The improved and expanded Sustainable Farming Incentive for 2024 is a great example of this. It is an important government mechanism to support farmers to get into these schemes to produce output of food and ecosystem services, at a fair remuneration. To learn more about this new release, and our SFI 24 Template, be sure to register for our upcoming webinar

If I were to sit down with the next government – whomever it may be – my ask would be to look at the admin cost of agri-environment schemes; How we can reduce this heavy resource burden and bureaucracy. By creating a digital, auditable framework, like Making Tax Digital did for HMRC, we could reduce costs considerably. In turn, we could use this money to raise the baseline of resilience in farming across the country. This is the only route for us to have a thriving society and economy. 

If we can get every farm, from 90 to 900 to 9000 acres to follow this framework, it would create a more robust, resilient land economy that any party can get behind. I see Land App’s job as presenting these new opportunities – the more we can show the possibilities, the more opportunities there will be for the land sector to thrive on into the future.

Best Regards,

Tim Hopkin

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author

Growing up on Norney Farm in Surrey, my early years were shaped by a profound love for farming and nature. Concerns about the farm’s sustainability sparked a journey that led me to explore property studies at Bristol UWE and delve into Permaculture and Regenerative Agriculture. These experiences abroad, particularly in France and South Africa, highlighted the pressing need for enhanced support in the land management sector, planting the seeds for what would become Land App. Following stints at Pear Technology and a groundbreaking collaboration with Geovation, Land App was born, driving innovation and connectivity in land management while fostering prosperity for farmers and the environment.
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