The benefits of the ‘fork to field’ message that British farming has promoted for more than a decade is being eroded, according to research surveys. In one survey, commissioned by AAK Foodservice, 89% of adults say they care how healthy their food is and 39% are cutting back on meat consumption. Vegans should soon account for 16% of the UK population. British farmers will need to consider diversification and new focuses but, at the same time, ensure farm insurance adequately covers their operations.
Brand-building is something farmers will largely never have done, but this, alongside delivering premium meat products for flexitarians, is said to be the way forward for British farmers. Similarly, they are being advised to concentrate on plant-based meat and dairy alternatives and ‘think’ edible pulses and grass-fed and outdoor-reared livestock. Animal welfare needs to be at the forefront of their planning too. The 2018 Nuffield Lecture by Professor Michael Winter encouraged farms to foster foods that would appeal to healthy, nutrition-seeking consumers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTxvVbqaBvA
There seems to be a widening void between Britain’s farming community and the British consumer, as evidenced in the Christmas targeting of farm shops selling festive turkeys and incidents in which cattle have been let out of farm gates and allowed to wander off.
But the growth of veganism is only one of the challenges. Another major one will reign post-Brexit. In 2027, farmers will stop receiving funding through the well-established EU routes and will have to get used to producing what the Environmental Land Management System (ELMS) wishes to see happen. Public funding will be available, if they produce food for which there is a public demand.
Farming experts are now urging farms to consider how the public is viewing the food chain and adapt to suit the mood of the nation. They also believe farms need to reconnect with the public, inviting them to open days and other events and educating the public more, by introducing them to the realities of farming. Engagement will be key.
There are significant insurance implications here. Changes to the livestock reared, or the crops grown, will probably result in new equipment being bought, operated and stored. Farm insurance policies may no longer cover new practices and equipment, so farms will need to ensure there are no holes in their cover.
If engaging with more members of the general public on the farm, farmers will also need to examine their public liability cover, and also their risk management, to keep people safe.
Recent climate change protests in London are a barometer of the deep concern existing when it comes to the health of the planet. More than ever, farms need to consider environmental liability cover and ensure that their practices have environmental considerations at their heart. Polluting land, water courses, or air could result in a public outcry.
These times of flux are not easy for farmers. Guidance is required and that is typically best delivered by an insurance broker who understands your world and who can assist you with the insurance cover you require. Having all the ‘what if?’ questions in their locker helps brokers to look at scenarios in objective ways, spotting the things that you may not, if you are busy and not always scanning your farm for risk.
If you need help managing the insurance implications of farming change, please get in touch.