Succession planning for farmers

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L-R: Savills director Adrian Matthews; Phil Reed, head of rural at Stephens Scown and Brian Harvey, head of agriculture at Francis Clark
L-R: Savills director Adrian Matthews; Phil Reed, head of rural at Stephens Scown and Brian Harvey, head of agriculture at Francis Clark

A seminar held recently by three professional firms at the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge discussed one of the most difficult areas for modern farmers – succession.

Who takes over the farm and how, when the present farmer comes to retire, is an essential question for the long-term planning of the business.

However, recent research from Farmers Weekly and NFU Mutual found that less than half of farmers have a succession plan in place.

The seminar – ‘Your farm, your family, your future’ – held by law firm, Stephens Scown; chartered accountant, Francis Clark; and property consultant, Savills Incorporating Smiths Gore, considered the issue from all the relevant angles and generated interesting discussion.

The event looked at the most common succession planning scenarios based on real life farm businesses.

Brian Harvey, partner and head of agriculture at Francis Clark, said: “My aim for this event was to get the people who attended thinking and talking about the potentially difficult subject of succession and to that extent I think it was a great success.”

Adrian Matthews, director of rural at Savills, commented: “One interesting possibility is a Contract Farming Agreement which can empower the next generation and allow the previous one to explore their other interests. It also addresses many of the potential pitfalls encountered when planning for succession. This is something we are happy to advise on.”

Phil Reed, partner and head of rural at Stephens Scown, added: “Our audience was a typical cross section of the farming community in the south west who are beginning to recognise that they need to plan for the future security and transfer of their farm businesses and our message is to start the process now.”