Can you take the reins?

Perhaps it was because farmers felt at home in the rural atmosphere of a livestock market, but a debate about the often difficult subject of succession planning was hailed a success.

Every year the Yorkshire Federation of Young Farmers’ Clubs (YFYFC) – which has a strong tradition of public speaking – hosts a forum. This year’s was titled Can you take the reins? and was held in the main ring at Skipton Livestock Market.

The panellists lined up under the auctioneer’s rostrum and the audience was seated around the auction ring. Among them was the recently-elected MP for Keighley Robbie Moore, who is from a farming family and is a qualified rural chartered surveyor, so has helped many clients tackle the often complicated maze of farm succession.

He spoke about the “four D’s” – death, divorce, debt and dispute – which were traditional triggers for looking at a farm’s future.

“It’s so much easier to tackle this subject in your own family’s time around the kitchen table rather than as a knee-jerk reaction to one of the four D’s when emotions will already be running high,” said Mr Moore, who in 2007 set up a plastic recycling business that has now grown to consist of a national network of franchises collecting and recycling farm plastic waste.

Others who had come along to support the debate included Dorothy Fairburn, northern director of the Country Landowners’ Association.

The event, which was sponsored by CCM Auctions and Crombie Wilkinson Solicitors, was hosted by Georgina Fort, a dairy farmer and chairman of YFYFC.

Panellists were specialist agricultural solicitors Clair Douglas and Lucy Steven, of Crombie Wilkinson, farmer’s son and chairman of Boroughbridge YFC George Gill, former YFYFC chairman and chartered accountant Helen Herd, chartered surveyor John Akrigg, David Moyles of The Samaritans and dairy farmer Ian Collins.

Ian, who supplies milk from his cows to the famous Longley Farm dairy, spoke about being in his early 20s with a three month-old baby when his father passed away suddenly back in 2004.

“With a bit of planning life would have been such a lot easier,” he recalled, talking about practical problems such as the freezing of the farm’s bank account.

“I couldn’t even pay money in – never mind take any out,” he said.

Other areas covered included death and tenancies, mental health challenges of taking on the responsibility of a farm and the fair treatment of all siblings.Forum snip 2020 image of panellists

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