LONG TERM prospects for the operation built up by Troy Stuart, his father Roy and uncle Ross look good.

In the mainly livestock area, still deficient in feed grains, their arable-orientated contracting work is thriving.

It is the picture in the nearer future, and particularly next autumn, that is less certain.

The family business, based at Hill Barton Business Park, Clyst St Mary, runs 800ha (2000 acres) in its own right and rather more mostly on whole farm contracts.

Originally concentrating on livestock haulage from a site of 20ha (50 acres), the Stuarts began storing grain in 1985 and started contracting in the early 1990s when nearby Exmouth docks closed.

They run a TASCC-registered grain store and a landfill site, and most of Ross”s time is spent overseeing Volvo”s truck agency in Cornwall and Devon.

Mr Stuart”s concern is for what some of his customers may choose to do under the single farm payment.

“With commodity prices and production costs as they are it would be very easy for some of them to turn round and say they can”t be bothered to sow. If we lost 50% we would have to think hard.”

Most of his work, in a machinery-sharing venture with neighbour Chris Down, comes from within a 15-mile radius. “We do all his drilling and he does all our spraying.”

Combining is kept separate, the Stuarts running a 30ft cut Claas Lexion 580 on tracks which harvested about 1200ha (3000 acres) last season.