After many years of above inflation increases, the price of agricultural land fell by 7 per cent last year with the average price per acre dropping to £10,223. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors blamed a sense of uncertainty linked to the prospective loss of EU subsidies.
A survey by Knight Frank found that farmland prices had fallen last year at the fastest rate since 1999. Its survey of bare agricultural land (not including homes or farm buildings) found that prices fell by 9 per cent to £7,470 an acre. Nevertheless, a pound invested in agricultural land in 2009 would still be worth twice as much as a pound invested in a house or the FTSE 100 share index.
It is thought that the price of farmland could continue to fall this year because of higher input prices resulting from the fall in the value of the pound. Prices are, however, being propped up by lifestyle farmers who are estimated to account for a quarter of purchases.
A fall in land prices might be seen as a benefit of Brexit, making it easier for new entrants to come into the industry, reducing the average age of farmers and boosting innovation. However, the real consideration here is whether rents for tenants fall significantly as this is the usual entry route other than in cases of succession.
Even then, new entrants face the cost of machinery and, other than or arable farms, livestock. What may be needed is new means of building up a herd such as share farming which is being experimented with, following the Nee Zealand example.