‘Culture of change’ plan

THREE AGRICULTURAL Societies have agreed a four-point plan to stimulate a culture of change among producers, fearing many have become “transfixed by uncertainty” over the future of farming.

Ben Gill, former NFU president and chairman of the recent Constructive Management of Change conference, held at Stoneleigh, Warks, said the sector must evolve as vibrant, viable businesses.

At the conference, organised jointly by the Royal Agricultural Society of England, Fellows of Royal Agricultural Societies and the Royal Smithfield Club, he said: “Our duty is now to encourage change and to ensure it is not seen as failure.”

A recent DEFRA poll suggested 30% of producers would embrace change, 50% convert slowly, and 20% remain unmoved.

“It is this last group that needs social and psychological mentoring – not technical support – to help them accept change and survive or decide on an exit strategy. We must challenge perceptions. To exit is not failure,” Sir Ben said.

The four-point plan will see participating societies assist groups helping producers tackle change; the introduction of international benchmarking to ensure businesses are competitive ahead of a freer world market, and ensuring producers receive up-to-date training and assistance from rural support networks.

The desire to change had already been adopted by the next generation, argued Notts-based young farmer Mark Spencer. “They are more focused on profit and have a global perspective.

“We need a burst of reality. If farming doesn’t deliver profits the young will give it a couple of years and then leave the industry to find jobs that do,” he warned.