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Farmers need to plan for success

Shropshire farmers are being urged to plan carefully for the future if their businesses are to survive in tough conditions.

Our Director of Agriculture, Mark Griffiths, said farmers are facing pressure from all kinds of directions when it comes to surviving in the industry.

"The markets surrounding farm commodities such as crops and livestock are becoming increasing volatile due to international influences; interest rates are exptected to rise soon; and the pressures of the good old British weather are never far away.

"As a result of these problems, bank managers are expecting more applications for funding and many are constantly surprised at the lack of forward planning from farmers when it comes to financial matters.  In order to make it through such difficult times, it's vital that farmers have a firm hold on both their business plan - and their budget!

Mark urged farmers to look more closely at their business and identify the most profitable areas.

"You should also assess how likely it is that the price of any commodity will change, and whether you can adjust the quantity you use, or whether you should look to buy forward and fix the price.

"Analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats your business is facing, and most importantly, be honest, particularly when it comes to staff costs, finance and land."

He said farmers should also put their finished business plan down in writing, making it clear who is responsible for carrying out each objective, as well as sharing the plan with key staff and family members.

"Don't be over-optimistic though - you should have proof to support any claims that you make in any projections, and show clearly what you intend to achieve and how you will deliver the outcomes."

Mark said many farmers were considering diversifying into less traditional industries in order to boost their income, but he said that whilst seizing opportunities, this could leave the farm exposed to risk.

"If you're considering such a move, you'll need to research your competitors and the new market in detail before you take a leap into the unknown.  And it's no good drafting a plan and leaving it at that.  You need to make sure you adapt to changes in your farm, its market and the economy, which means you'll need to regularly review and update the plan moving forward.

"Don't be afraid to seek professional help either.  Farmers should take all the advice they can get in order to achieve their business goals.

Mark Griffiths, Director of Agriculture