Future of farming in the spotlight as Thrings’ Agriculture Seminar returns

By Nick Batten on 15 November, 2023

The future of farming was the topic of this year’s Thrings’ Annual Agriculture Seminar, with discussion firmly focused on what the future holds for a sector steeped in tradition but continually pushing for innovation.

Lawyers from the Thrings Agriculture, Planning, Corporate and Private Client teams took to the stage last week in front of a crowd of more than 200 representatives from farming businesses and a wealth of other rural organisations, leading discussions on the biggest topics currently facing farms, as well as what is on the horizon.

Held once again at the Royal Agricultural University in Cirencester, this year’s seminar opened with a speech by keynote speaker Colin Smart of the Environmental Farmers Group, who highlighted the role farmers can play in protecting and enhancing nature on their land. This was followed by a fireside chat with Thrings Agriculture lawyers Mark Charter, Jonathan Thompson and Harvey Davies who discussed Natural Capital and the environmental options that can be considered for farmland, as well as how such agreements could impact the future of the farm, land value and succession.

Alex Madden, Fred Quartermain, Rebecca Stanton and Kiran Maher from the firm’s Planning and Environment team gave details presentation on the planning opportunities open to the rural economy, including through proposed changes to permitted development rights, biodiversity net gain and nutrient neutrality. The team also covered the relevance of new and forthcoming legislation such as the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill and the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Planning for the future was at the heart of a talk by Private Client expert Andrew Morris, Corporate Associate Conor Melvin and Agricultural Land specialist Jake Wennen, with a talk on whether to pass on or sell the farm and advice on how to navigate the complexities of both possibilities to ensure a smooth outcome.

Seminar attendees listening to a presentation from Kiran Maher of the Thrings Planning team

Handing over the farm, however, does not always go smoothly and can cause significant conflict where promises are seemingly made and then broken. Examining the concept of Proprietary Estoppel, Agricultural litigator Richie Rees explored what successful claimants can win and how this has been impacted by Thrings’ high-profile success in the Supreme Court last year.

Closing the event, the audience was given a preview of Thrings’ latest video, showcasing the outstanding work to reintroduce nature to farming by the Pig Shed Trust.

Duncan Sigournay, Head of the Thrings’ Agriculture team and Chair of the Annual Agriculture Seminar, said, “Farming is one of the oldest occupations in the world but is one that is forever fighting to innovate and diversify as costs rise and revenues fall. It, however, does have a bright future and it was great to hear from our speakers today on the emerging opportunities.

“It was fantastic to have another full house for this year’s seminar which we are proud to see remains a firm fixture on the calendar for the agriculture sector. Accurate and up-to-date professional advice is vital for the survival and success of the farming world and we are delighted to have been able to share our expertise with such an engaged and like-minded audience.”

Thrings’ Agriculture team is one of the largest of its kind in the UK with decades of experience in successfully supporting its farming and landowner clients to achieve their aims and the potential for their business. Its lawyers are ranked in the highest tier by both the prestigious Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners directories and have been chosen by the NFU to act for its members in more countries than any other firm.

Find out more about how Thrings can support farmers, food producers and rural communities on the firm’s Information for Farmers page.

Pictured: (top of page) Duncan Sigournay, Thrings’ Head of Agriculture and Chair of the seminar, addressing the crowd at the event on 10th November