Farmers risk being left behind if they are too cautious following CAP reform, says the head of agribusiness at Clydesdale Bank.

“There’s nothing wrong, of course, with adopting a cautious approach to business, especially during a period of such major change to the rural sector,” said David Douglas.

“However, it’s important that the degree of caution we’ve seen leads in turn to a fresh release of potential for businesses,” he added.

Mr Douglas said a survey by the company showed that half of the farmers who responded did not expect CAP reform to have a changing impact on their own businesses.

Although with single farm payments yet to be paid in most of the UK this was understandable, it was a big mistake, he warned.

“With arable and livestock units in ‘late-payment’ areas facing at least a three-month extension to funding needs, maybe more, it’s easy to understand the reluctance that some have to commit to future change, especially when you add in rising fuel and fertiliser costs and weak commodity prices.

“However, for the rural sector to progress there will need to be a significant broadening of thinking, even a willingness to embrace the uncomfortable in terms of inter-business co-operation and joint ventures.

It’s a challenge we ignore at our peril.”