INDUSTRY COMMENT: CLIMATE CHANGE, BREXIT AND BORIS - THE PERFECT STORM
by WILLY BROWNE-SWINBURNE
Whatever happens before and after 31st October, rural land use is going to change. Now is the moment for landowners to get on the front foot and embrace biodiversity as part of their long-term estate strategy.
Health and Harmony, The Agriculture Bill, the 25 Year Environment Plan, ELMS, Public Goods are all very clear indicators of how the world is changing. The validity of the climate change agenda is irrelevant. The point is that it will be the driving force for policy decisions from now on and we as landowners need to start thinking about how this will change the relationship we have with our land and all the people we work with on that land.
The good news is that the Government has a direction of travel, but it is still ‘at sea’ in terms of how to actually deliver the right outcomes on the ground. This is the opportunity. The opportunity for all of us to look at what we own through the prism of biodiversity and sustainability. Sustainability in terms of business, people and environment.
From a Rural Solutions’ point of view, we are encouraged. The climate change/natural capital and bio-diversity agenda does not limit us, in fact these are very exciting times for our business and the whole rural sector. The inevitable changes in the landlord and tenant relationship, the death of ‘cap in hand’, ‘farming for the sake of farming’ points to a context where there will be more business in the countryside. The difference will be that it will be business that genuinely provides goods and services that the public and the market wants. A business that is genuinely sustainable, getting paid to deliver agreed outcomes, with no need for a basic subsidy.
We don’t have all the answers yet, but we are excited by the possibilities that are beginning to emerge. We are working with a number of enlightened clients to work out how we shape estate scale farming, land use and diversification strategies, not simply to mitigate the loss of basic farm payment but to look at land use and occupation with a completely clean sheet. Understanding what people will see as important and desirable is what makes good business. In my experience as a landowner and farmer myself, the rural sector has always reacted effectively to Government policy, not always it must be said with the most sustainable outcomes. Here at last, is the opportunity for hundreds of inspired and forward-thinking people in the sector to build business without those shackles. It is a genuinely perfect storm, but a storm that could be incredibly positive. We just need to think clearly and work together to make that so.