Future Farmers put focus on succession Nov 2021
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Future Farmers put focus on succession Nov 2021

All generations of farming families share the responsibility to broach constructive conversations about the future of the family business and it is never too early to do so, an audience at the Great Yorkshire Showground heard.

At the Future Farmers of Yorkshire’s Autumn Debate, the often-sensitive topic of farming succession was put under the spotlight to inspire farming families about how they can handle the careful generational handover or restructure of a farm business and reap the positive opportunities that clarity about the future can bring.

The evening event, sponsored by Dee Atkinson & Harrison, Wrigleys Solicitors and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, brought together 120 delegates at Pavilions of Harrogate, as well as a virtual audience via Facebook to hear expert perspectives and frank advice from a knowledgeable industry panel.

Opening the debate as chair, Rebecca Horne of Dee Atkinson & Harrison said succession can conjure up feelings of “pincer-type holds” and difficult conversations which can stop families from planning effectively and early enough for the future.

Succession facilitator Heather Wildman said the responsibility for starting family conversations about succession planning must be shared. She said: “Often, the older generation don’t want to (start the conversation) because they don’t want their children to feel they have to come into farming. Yet often it’s the new generation coming in who start to think they can’t bring it up because it means death. Which generation needs to start the conversation? The answer is, every one of you in this room tonight and it is never too early to start.”

Everyone involved in the family business should have the chance to air their views, and share their goals and dreams for the future, so that a workable solution can be mapped out, Heather said.

Andrew Robinson of Armstrong Watson presented an accountant’s view and guided farmers through tax implications of failing to plan for the future without seeking professional advice. Andrew also reflected on how succession planning did not have to mean the older generation retiring. Many farmers now transition their business into a joint venture such as contract or share farming as they get older, he said.

Andrew explained: “I don’t see succession as being one generation retiring, it can just be a restructuring or a change in business focus when younger generations get involved in the business. It might just be about letting the next generation do something different, looking at your farming business in a different way so you can continue benefitting from it.”

Legal implications were highlighted by Orlando Bridgeman of Wrigleys Solicitors. He said it was important, when making succession plans, for farming families to understand fundamentals such as who owns what land to avoid disputes and “tax traps”. He added that partnership agreements between older and younger family members can provide important contractual certainty over the farm’s future.

Annabel Hamilton, who farms across 2,500 acres in Berwickshire with her father, Will explained that her succession journey began in September 2020 after she spent eight years off the farm. During her time away, she gained experience working in farm management. She told of how it is important for younger generations of farming families to be patient and for their aspirations to be invested in by older generations.

Annabel said: “The older generation must be prepared to hand over the reins. It takes time, we are both (my father and I) quite patient, we know it’s not going to happen overnight. For me, going away to work on other farms to get experience was so invaluable.”

Rebecca Horne encouraged attendees to use the debate as a way of initiating family conversations at home, saying: “I hope, if nothing else, you will use your attendance here this evening as a springboard for further discussion.”

Watch the Autumn Debate back in full, or view footage of the panellists’ presentations, at yas.co.uk/autumndebate

Free to join, Future Farmers of Yorkshire is supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and is a forward-thinking network of more than 1,000 younger farmers, vets and industry professionals. For more details, seeyas.co.uk/futurefarmers 


Debate Chair Rebecca Horne, shown with virtual speakers Heather Wildman of Saviour Associates and farmer Annabel Hamilton.


Some 120 delegates attended the Future Farmers of Yorkshire Autumn Debate