Oxford Farming Conference Debate

Ellacotts were delighted to sponsor the Debate and Post Debate Supper at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday 3 January. 

The annual Oxford Farming Conference is a three-day event and is a highlight in the farming year and sees hundreds of delegates and professionals come together to hear inspirational talks, get involved with debates and enjoy networking opportunities and fringe events. This year the theme of the conference was the “World of Opportunity”. 

The Debate was held at the Oxford Union and we were delighted to be a sponsor alongside Savills and Thrings. 

The motion was: “This house believes the country would be better served if farmers focused on profits rather than public goods.” The proposers were Guy Smith, NFU Deputy President and Sarah Bell, consultant and mixed farmer. Opposing was Hilary McGrady, Director-General of the National Trust and Tom Lancaster, Principal Policy Officer for agriculture, RSPB. A lively debate, with victory to the “ayes”. 

Oxford Farming Conference Dinner

Key themes were the importance of investment in research into technology, such as robotics, gene editing, precision farming techniques and artificial intelligence to boost farming productivity, including a floating dairy farm in Holland.

One statistic stuck with us: over 20% of cereal, dairy, lowland grazing livestock, mixed and poultry farms failed to make a profit in 2016/17, and 50% made less than £20,000. Change is therefore inevitable. It requires farmers and landowners to have accurate information on how their business is doing, both financially and in output terms. Clever use of technology to efficiently manage the day to day farm tasks, and back office tasks such as bookkeeping, will allow land managers and farmers to focus on those tasks that need human involvement.

Benchmarking is incredibly useful in providing information for farm and business comparisons and highlighting where change is needed. Ellacotts work with our clients to benchmark financial and margin results. The AHDB and the Farm Business Survey information is readily available, much of which farmers are paying for through statutory levies, so why not get involved?

The Ellacotts team are frequently involved, along with solicitors, land agents, and other professionals, in helping clients move through times of change, involving succession planning in land ownership and in business management. Communication is key and can be challenging in family businesses.

Please contact John Thame by emailing jthame@ellacotts.co.uk or 01295 250401 for help and guidance with succession planning and business transition.