15 September 2000
Shock as royal society quits farming

by FWi staff

THE Royal Agricultural Society of England is to quit farming this autumn as part of a major restructuring programme to concentrate on other projects instead.

Rather than commercial agriculture, the society aims to raise 6m over four years for investment in technology transfer, education and the policy debate.

The decision to restructure the society will bring to an end 30 years of commercial farming at the organisations farm at Stoneleigh, Warwickshire.

Mike Calvert, RASE chief executive, said the move was necessary to serve the changing needs of British agriculture and members interests.

He denied that there was a hidden agenda behind the move to concentrate on other areas and said that the decision to quit farming made financial sense.

“Our farming today is purely commercial. There is little prospect in the short to medium term that returns are going to improve dramatically from farming.

The restructuring aims to ensure that the Society is able to meet the challenge of falling farm profits and other changes affecting the rural economy.

It is the first major decision announced by Mr Calvert since he succeeded Charles Runge as RASE chief executive after the Royal Show in July.

Mr Calvert told reporters at a press conference: “We believe that the resources presently tied up in the farm can be used more effectively in other ways.

“We have decided to come out of farming in hand to release time, working capital, buildings and staff to concentrate our resources on our charitable work.”

The Society, which was formed in 1840, farms about 400 hectares (1000 acres) of combinable crops of which it owns about 270ha (660 acres)

It runs Englands premier agricultural event – the Royal Show – and also rents out small parcels of agricultural land to farmers in Hertfordshire and Devon.

A decision will be taken by November whether to sell part or all of the land or to offer it on farm business tenancies contracts, said Mr Calvert.

Restyled RASE membership packages will be launched early next year to build on the societys current membership of 10,300 – a level regarded as too low.