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Farming talk, Tim Perkins

Continuity and stability are keywords with a majority government now in place, Environment and Farming ministers appointed and a suite of local MPs who should understand the needs of their rural constituencies. There are a number of key issues for farmers and other rural businesses in Shropshire that the government needs to promptly turn its attention to:

Broadband and Mobile Phone Coverage: Rural businesses must be able to compete with urban based businesses, communications are key.  The conservatives have said that they will hold mobile phone operators to a promise to provide 90% coverage of the UK land mass by 2017, and will continue to invest in superfast broadband to provide coverage to 95% of the UK by the end of 2017.

Bovine TB: Was a hot topic in the early 1900s, little would anyone think it would remain so contentious into the 21st century. The government must hold firm in its commitment to eradicate bovine TB within 25 years, the current cost of which is estimated to be one billion pounds over the next ten years.

Red Tape: Food producers suffer more regulation and red tape than most.  Much of this is poorly administered and co-ordinated, with duplication and a lack of understanding its implementation. The government has promised to take steps to start to address this by creating a body to co-ordinate farm inspections and eradicate unnecessary and time consuming doubling-up of these.  This is a start that cannot come too soon.

Tax: With the ever increasing uncertainties of the weather and commodity prices, it is welcome common sense news that any farm profits might now be ironed out over a five year period. It does seem unreasonable to charge 4% stamp duty for those purchasing over approximately 50 acres this amounts to an extra cost of £400 per acre to UK land prices.

Europe: Mr Cameron will have some big issues to negotiate; after which he has promised the referendum. However for farmers whilst reform and simplification on the CAP should be welcome, this should not compromise direct payments to farmers which provide the essential stability the industry requires, ultimately protecting both the nation’s food supply in harmony with conservation, wildlife and rural amenities.

Supermarkets: Too often small food producers remain at the mercy of large retailers which is, in the long term, unsustainable and to no one’s benefit. Similar issues are also present for the UK’s dairy producers; numbers of which continue to recede by the week. The government must continue to address this.

If the government’s manifesto promises are kept, we look forward to a sustainable future for the region’s farmers and other rural businesses. The mandate given to them through this election is to hit the ground running.


Tim Perkins is a partner in Balfours Property Professionals.

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