End of the line for family farms?

5 July 2001

End of the line for family farms?

By Andrew Shirley and Jonathan Riley

MANY family farms could go to the wall due to the lack of a successor, the Institute of Chartered Accountants has warned.

A survey of 260 farms, totalling over 120,000 acres, has found that 40% of family farms have no succession plan in place.

Based on yearly accounts ending Apr 2001, the study reveals that profits were 4% lower than the previous year, and farm capital was eroded by almost 10,000.

Aubrey Davies, chairman of the institutes farming group, said: “Virtually every type of farm is seeing a continuing fall in profits.”

He added: “Many younger members of farming families are seeking careers outside the industry.”

There was also bad news for those farmers who are hoping that farm diversification will be the saviour of the rural economy.

Only 25% of the units studied had diversified, and in only 3% of cases did the income generated account for more than 25% of profits.

Michael Hart, chairman of the Small And Family Farms Alliance, said he was saddened but not surprised by the figures.

“My own son has chosen not to follow me into farming because there is no money in it,” he said.

“Unless we take up European Union schemes to encourage young people to stay in farming the problem is going to get worse.

“The French government has provided money for its young farmers while our government just tells us to diversify. But into what?

The farm B&B market is already saturated and setting up new enterprises requires more labour, not less, which is the situation we are trying to cope with.”

Mr Hart concluded: “The only one to gain from this situation is the government which will get what it wants – fewer farmers.”


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