Let us hope 2022 proves to be a less challenging year for agriculture, writes Jenni Bartram, Consultant Solicitor, Harrowells Solicitors

So we reach the end of what has been a somewhat patchy year in agriculture. It is easy to allow seasonal goodwill to dull the memory a little but the pig industry - other than that of Peppa Pig - will not forget the pressures thrown onto the sector in earlier in the year or the amount of lobbying that had to be done to ensure the government acted.

Whilst current commodity prices going forward look good, that has to be balanced by massive increases in the cost of fertilizers and machinery. The livestock sector is singled out for further tightening of standards regarding greenhouse gas emissions whilst other, higher polluting, sectors are largely ignored.

There is a price for food production, to take it from farm to table, uphold good animal and health safety standards and ensure a high quality product. Support to agriculture has been the price European society has, to a degree, been willing to pay in previous decades to subsidise that price and supply of food to the general public.

We are now, however, in a new age of ELMS, green capital and carbon capture. I note with interest that a recent sector survey reported that, despite the next reduction in BPS payments due in 2022, two thirds of farmers were carrying on as before or awaiting developments before deciding how they were going to move forward.

This is not really surprising as whilst the Agriculture Act and Environment Act have been followed through with statutory instruments and regulations from DEFRA and EA, some interesting conflicts have occurred.

The short notice in August, to a very busy farming community, in respect of organic fertilizer storage, raised a few questions and I am sure that will be a continuing learning curve over the next few years.

The industry can only develop in the direction the Government desires if some degree of certainty being given.

Overnight change is particularly unhelpful when not all the facts and figures are available to make informed decisions. Farming is a business and, whilst there will always be some areas of farmland that can be utilized to provide the public benefit required for public funding, sustainable farming will not be a case of “wilding “ large tracts of productive land but looking at the whole picture of the land holding and its enterprises.

In passing, an interesting case in court this year, was the action taken by the plant milk manufacturer Oatly against Glebe Farm Foods, in relation to Glebe’s product Oaty, which Oatly claimed damaged their brand name which view the court rejected. It pays to consider product brand names very carefully before using one that can be adapted easily by others.

At Harrowells, we have remained open and available to provide our professional assistance over the last eighteen months to assist our agricultural and rural clients in relation to succession issues, property transactions, partnership and company agreements and commercial contract disputes and more and look forward to providing that continuing care in the New Year.

May Stephen Proctor, Susie Mortonson, Matthew Rowley, Phil Nelson, Katie I’Anson, Anita Cooper and I and the wider Harrowells team wish you a happy Christmas and all of the very best in 2022.