A seminar held recently by three professional firms at the Royal Cornwall Showground in Wadebridge discussed one of the most difficult areas for modern farmers – succession. Who takes over the farm and how, when the present farmer comes to retire, is an essential question for the long-term planning of the business.

However, recent research from Farmers Weekly and NFU Mutual found that less than half of farmers have a succession plan in place.

The seminar – Your farm, your family, your future – held by law firm Stephens Scown LLP, chartered accountants Francis Clark LLP and property consultants Savills Incorporating Smiths Gore, considered the issue from all the relevant angles and generated interesting discussion.

The event looked at the most common succession planning scenarios based on real life farm businesses. Representatives of the three professional firms used their combined knowledge and experience to address the key issues, providing food for thought for delegates and giving them routes to develop their own plans for the future of their farm and family.

(L to R) Adrian Matthews, Director, Rural at Savills, Phil Reed, Partner and Head of Rural at Stephens Scown and Brian Harvey, Partner and Head of Agriculture at Francis Clark

Brian Harvey, Partner and Head of Agriculture at Francis Clark, said: “My aim for this event was to get the people who attended thinking and talking about the potentially difficult subject of succession and to that extent I think it was a great success.”

Adrian Matthews, Director, Rural, at Savills, commented: “One interesting possibility is a Contract Farming Agreement which can empower the next generation and allow the previous one to explore their other interests. It also addresses many of the potential pitfalls encountered when planning for succession. This is something we are happy to advise on.”

Phil Reed, Partner and Head of Rural at Stephens Scown, said: “Our audience was a typical cross section of the farming community in the South West who are beginning to recognise that they need to plan for the future security and transfer of their farm businesses and our message is to start the process now.”