Leading agricultural lawyers at Burges Salmon strongly support the primary recommendations of a new report titled 'The Best British Farmers: What Gives them the Edge?', which calls for greater focus of public and private research on market needs in order to become more competitive.

The report was commissioned for this week's 2015 Oxford Farming Conference (OFC) and is based on research conducted by the respected Andersons Centre. The report found that UK farming's position as the best in the world has slipped. However, it points out that our best farmers continue to be world-class in terms of their productivity, profitability and attention to detail.

"This paper challenges UK farming to wake up to the reality that we are falling behind global competitors. The report is clear that in order to raise performance the present real terms decline in research and development has to be reversed and makes practical suggestions about how this should be done. Burges Salmon strongly supports the primary recommendation of the paper which is that we need more public and private research and development," said Tom Hewitt, partner at Burges Salmon, a co-sponsor of the report and one of the county's foremost practices for the farming and rural land sector.

Other sponsors are the multi-national agri-science company Syngenta and HSBC, demonstrating the importance of the topic to companies supplying the country's farmers, as well as to farmers themselves.

The report's author, Graham Redman of The Andersons Centre, also sees underperformance being linked to direct subsidies stifling competitiveness and lacklustre business appetites. In addition to his recommendation for increased investment in research to make Britain's farming more competitive, he makes a number of others:

  • Benefits from improved exchange of knowledge will be twofold, benefiting the research community whilst also helping to get information to those who can use it. It will help top performers move the productive frontier forward and those following to catch up.
  • Focus should be centred on the top and middle sectors of farmer operators. Those that do not seek information will always be very difficult to influence.
  • Opportunities for restructuring UK agriculture through facilitated young farmer access should be improved. Younger farmers are often more strategic and visionary operators than their elders. They are also more frequently prepared to use loan, venture or external shareholder capital to expand the business.
  • Farmers as with all businesspeople should help themselves by seeking greater (non-agricultural) business acumen.

The research report will be distributed to delegates at the Oxford Farming Conference and will be available to download from www.ofc.org.uk.