Rural’s new Farm Product Manager gives us his view on what the future holds for farming in the UK

Andrew joins Rural as the new Farm Product Manager and will be the driving force behind making improvements to our range of farm insurance products. He has spent more than 30 years in the insurance industry, of which 20 years’ has been in agricultural insurance, in both insurer and broker businesses

What attracted you to Rural Insurance?

“Rural is a progressive, innovative company with ambitious plans for the future and some exciting new partnerships on the horizon.

I’ve looked at how their Farm Combined product has evolved over the years and I think there is a great opportunity to develop the product further, offering even more benefits to brokers and policyholders. Our ambition is to make Rural’s farm product a leader in the market.

Something else that attracted me to Rural was what I’d heard about the people. I’d often hear about their passion and enthusiasm for what they do. I have to say that in the short time I’ve been here they couldn’t have been more welcoming…I’ve been really impressed by the team and the setup here.”


What will your role be at Rural?

“I’ll be responsible for all the farm products, including our Farm Combined, Livestock, Renewables and Hailstorm insurance. Ultimately, I’ll oversee the development, profitability and growth of these products, working closely with our insurer partners.

As well as developing policy wording, I’ll also be looking to increase flexibility in our underwriting approach so we can allow our brokers to compete on a wider range of risks. 

I’ll be working closely with our underwriters to do this and would also really value the feedback of our broker partners.”


What do farmers need to think about these days when they’re insuring their business and how have you seen this change over the years?

“The old chestnut that can still be regularly overlooked is insuring Business Interruption. B.I. can give a wider cover for what in many cases is a very similar premium to a risk insured on a Material Damage basis.

Environmental Impairment Liability is now an essential cover following changes in legislation in recent years, not to mention fly tipping incidents developing into an industrial scale problem in some parts of the country.

The biggest change over the years is the frequency at which farmers are now involved in diversification of their business. With over 60% of farms now having some form of diversification, it’s a trend that looks set to continue, especially as farmers consider the possible implications of revisions or removal of the current Basic Payment Scheme following Brexit.

Many farmers are investing now whilst still receiving funding from BPS so that they can provide an income or cost savings now should the subsidies dry up in future.

An increasingly common choice is investment in both residential or commercial property, as is development of energy. Solar panels and wind turbines have been around for a while but more and more often we’re seeing bio mass boilers and anaerobic digesters appearing on farms.

Leisure activities can be a nice addition to a farmer’s income, with options including Let Shooting, Bed & Breakfast, Campsites, Car Boot Sales. However, they might not always offer a regular or stable income.


What do you think the future holds for farmers?

In such a fast changing world it’s difficult to anticipate what path the future will follow, with connected global markets that can drive the price of dairy, crops and other farm produce. Similarly unpredictable politics and climate which will all affect the future of farming. The safest bets right now seem to be with carefully planned diversifications around energy generation and property investment.

Increased use of technology and automation is also developing rapidly and will inevitably continue to do so as farmers seek to reduce cost and maximise yield. New pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified crops will continue to be pushed and will be used in many parts of the world, but their use in the UK will be a political matter with economics competing against health and environmental issues.

Hopefully protection of the rural environment will remain high on the agenda. As custodians of the countryside, farmers will play a critical role and, I hope, will continue to develop farm practices that will protect the environment. This will be tricky to balance against the pressures of feeding an ever-growing world population and because nearly half of the UK’s food is imported, we’ll likely see some changes in how we grow, import and consume food.

I’d like to see some future protection for hill farms which often deliver marginal profits but form the wonderful character of many parts of the UK.

Although there are some uncertain times in farming right now, there’s no doubt that opportunity exists for the farmers who can change and adapt to the new political, environmental and economic landscape that will emerge from Brexit. Farming in the UK has a long history of entrepreneurialism in the face of change, so we are optimistic about the new opportunities ahead.

I’m looking forward to helping Rural develop its products to help farmers realise these new opportunities now and in the future.