Succession planning, cash flow problems concerning the single farm payment, tax issues surrounding diversified business and opportunities to capture more value from the beef and sheep markets were issues high on the agenda of farmers who attended the Cornwall Developing Income event.

Consensus among the advisers and professional businesses who manned the stands at Wadebridge was that farmers were hungry for information now that CAP reform and the single farm payment were a reality.

“We saw farm businesses that are changing rapidly to accommodate CAP reform and to exploit new opportunities through diversification,” said Robert Cowie of accountant Winter Rule.

“Many are only now realising that such change can so alter the nature of the business that agricultural property relief may be put at risk.

That was a big talking point along with succession planning and the general issue of inheritance tax.

“Some changes in farm business are subtle and take place over a long time and it is only when inheritance or a sale takes place that the full implication of the change is apparent.

It is a subject on which clear advice is very important.”

Mr Cowie said that the event had been a great success and was unique in bringing together so many professional businesses under one roof and providing access to information for farmers.

His views were echoed by agricultural consultant Tim Manhire.

“Although there was underlying concern about cash flow resulting from the delays in the single payment, there was a positive buzz about the event.

Among the traditional beef and sheep farms operating on the Cornish peninsular, there is a determination to capture more of the value in the chain and, where appropriate, to expand.

“We spoke to a number of sheep farmers who are seriously looking at expansion – moving up from 300-400 ewes to 500 or 600.

Beef farmers are tending to seek ways to add value – either by direct marketing or developing their output to fit in with value-added, niche markets.

“The overwhelming feeling is that change is here and it offers opportunities – either by developing income from environmental payments or by operating in higher value markets,” said Mr Manhire.

Response to the Duchy College stand bore out farmers’ determination to improve their business performance.

“There was considerable interest in the business benchmarking programme that we have developed.

Dairy, beef and sheep farmers were keen to become involved,” said lecturer, Wayne Simmons.

fwbusiness@rbi.co.uk