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Clarkson’s Farm Season Two – more challenges for farmers ahead

Having been taken in by the first season of Clarkson’s Farm, I was intrigued to see what another year on Diddly Squat Farm may look like and I have to say, I was even more captivated than than before.

The second season of Clarkson’s Farm focused on recovering the subsidies the farm had lost as a consequence of Brexit. Whilst the first season highlighted diversification in the form of a brilliantly successful farm shop, Clarkson’s newest ideas were bold and in themselves created more challenges and yet more costly steps.

Clarkson has, once again, been praised by those who are prominent in the farming industry and most notably by Minette Batters, President of the NFU, who noted that “his show has… brought alive the ups and downs of our industry to a huge new audience, and transported British farming into the living rooms of families across the country”. The second season has been given the seal of approval by all manner of farmers; whether farming on a large or small scale, arable or stock or by the farming community as a whole who have had to adapt as a result of Brexit and the loss of subsidies.

So yet again, Clarkson’s Farm has brought an understanding of the issues faced by farmers to the British public, but what exactly are they and how can we help?

Yet more diversification

Like all farmers in the UK, Clarkson has had to make a conscious effort to ensure that his farm remains viable without the assistance of the Basic Payment Scheme. With that being said, season two showed Clarkson tousling with West Oxfordshire District Council in an attempt to diversify the farm and sell his own produce, and the produce of other local farmers, in his own restaurant. Whilst Clarkson’s idea showed vision and strategy in the context of farm diversification, the application was hit with planning refusals and objections. These objections related to the location of the farm, being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, as well as a refusal surrounding a prior notification of an agricultural track.  Since the second season aired, West Oxfordshire District Council have released a statement expressing their sympathy for the “challenges  farmers face in running their businesses” and encouraging “businesses and residents to speak to us (them) and obtain pre-application advice before submitting a planning application”.

Whilst not all farmers are TV personalities, all farmers are having to diversify in some way and this is just one example of how difficult it can be.

Problems farmers face with livestock

As if the farming climate wasn’t hard enough, all bovine animal farmers (including beef, dairy, buffalo or bison) have to grapple with the trials and tribulations of Bovine Tuberculosis (“TB”). Once again, Clarkson showed his innocent naivety when discussing his plans to start a beef enterprise with advisors in which he responded, in typical Clarkson style, “kill the badgers”.  In absolutely no circumstance is it legal to kill badgers as they are a protected species. However, there are ways in which farmers can try to mitigate the risk of their herd contracting the disease. We would strongly recommend getting in touch with us if you would like any assistance and/or clarification with the “dos” and “don’ts” of badgers and more specifically the Protection of Badgers Act 1992.

Farmers with bovine animals have to test their animals for TB and the regularity of this depends on factors such as the location of their farm, whether any of their animals have had TB before and what type of animals they hold. It was devastating to watch Clarkson’s Farm and listen to a local farmer who had lost 50% of her herd due to TB. The second season highlighted how TB can result in a loss of income, a loss of breeding stock and can devastate farms and farming families alike.

Keeping it local

In Clarkson’s bid to diversify, he was able to liaise with his local fellow farmers in both selling their produce in his farm shop as well as in his new restaurant.

Both seasons of Clarkson’s Farm have seen Jeremy befriend his fellow farmers in an effort to assist each other and encourage local people to purchase local produce. This is, of course, a brilliant idea and supports the ‘Back British Farming’ campaign. However Clarkson has shown in both seasons that some moments could cause tension between neighbouring farms. In season one, Clarkson began to build the farm shop and it soon became apparent that some of the gateway to the farm shop site was not within his Land Registry title, whilst in season two, Clarkson’s herd had, on numerous occasions, escaped onto local farmers’ land.

Unfortunately there are lots of disputes that can arise between neighbouring farms such as issues with boundaries, public and private rights of way and hunting and shooting issues.

How can we help?

Clarke Willmott are well equipped to assist with the issues raised in this article and by Clarkson’s Farm generally. We are NFU panel solicitors for Somerset, Gloucester, Wiltshire and Dorset and have one of the biggest agricultural teams in the country.

We have specialists who can advise on all legal aspects of farming diversification, whether that be in relation to planning, regulation or property. Our specialist regulatory team can advise on animal and/or badger queries, health and safety policies or proceedings or inquests, whilst our planning team can assist with all forms of development including planning and environmental prosecutions, planning applications and appeals and tree preservations orders and our dispute team can assist with property disputes, farming partnerships and companies and proprietary estoppel claims.

This article was written by Lara Williamson, trainee solicitor in our Commercial and Private Client Litigation Team. For more information about our agricultural legal services please contact Laura Mackain-Bremner.


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