Farmer-controlled businesses in England and Scotland pay their non-executive directors a fraction of the sums they would receive in other sectors of the economy, new research has revealed.

A survey by English Farming and Food Partnerships found the highest paid non-executives in agriculture received just 60% of the average pay in other industries.

“Remuneration in FCBs is highly variable, ranging from nothing up to 80,000-100,000 a year,” said EFFP’s David Oglethorpe.

“It is a sector characterised by low wages in general, partly because of low levels of profitability.

Also, its directors are often not trained because they have come from a farming background.”

Of the 400 FCBs invited to participate, 71 responded. Of those, 14 did not pay their non-execs at all.

At the other end of the scale, Dr Oglethorpe said milk co-ops skewed the picture because they paid directors much better and had higher standards of governance.

“If you stripped them out of the figures, you would remove 1bn worth of turnover, so they have a massive effect on the results.”

He explained that the survey was part of EFFP’s campaign to improve management skills.

“If we are trying to raise standards in the boardroom, we should be looking to benchmark remuneration, because we need to know what to pay to attract the top non-execs.”