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When it comes to agriculture, no two regions of the UK are the same. It’s a richly diverse sector shaped by the local environment, which is why we continue to maintain a strong regional presence, working closely with our broker partners to understand their rural client’s motor insurance needs.

Here, Sam Linton, Regional Trading Underwriter for the North of England, shares her thoughts on the market trends, opportunities and challenges within her region and where she believes brokers can thrive in 2022 and beyond.

Tell us about the type of farms and rural businesses you typically encounter

We support a vast range of farms, from small family livestock farms to large estates and nationwide produce distribution risks. I’m currently seeing more agricultural contracting risks and environmental specialist contractors coming into the region. We also provide mixed fleet cover for all sorts of land-based risks – from pest control to campsites and garden centres to Zoo’s, there are many rurally based businesses that require agricultural machinery to maintain and expand their grounds.

What service do you provide brokers?

I’m here to be a direct contact for queries, urgent assistance, or just to chat something through. Having a locally based person to call or share submissions with can be hugely valuable to brokers. We handle many complex farming risks, and the personal touch is invaluable to ensure the best cover for this type of business.

It’s been a tough couple of years for the farming community, what do you see as the most enduring impact of Covid-19 on our agri customers?

I would say economic strains and volatilities. We have had Brexit, followed by Covid and now the Ukraine conflict, all in quick succession. Price increases are being fed through to consumers, which will create further uncertainty for farmers and rural businesses around forecasting and production and cause considerable fluctuations in inputs to the farm – from power to fuel to operational costs.

The pandemic has also caused vehicle production delays. With second-hand vehicles, parts, labour and leasing costs all on the rise, farmers have to factor these increases into their thinking too.

Farmers are having to adapt, are there any new trends you’re seeing in the Northern area?

From a vehicle perspective, I’ve noticed that more farms are investing in higher-value vehicles. This, coupled with the increase in second-hand values, is leading to less reduction of value at renewals. In fact, it’s often the opposite, with values being increased to avoid underinsurance.

Farms and landowners are looking at diversification to provide additional income streams and manage land more effectively – necessary to retain their Government subsidies.

Throughout the pandemic, we saw a big increase in farms moving into outdoor hospitality and events. In 2022 I’m anticipating seeing more direct-to-consumer agri operations and greater diversification into renewable energy production, given the ongoing fuel issues we’re all facing.

You mention renewable energy which leads us into the Government’s latest sustainability drive, how are Agri businesses likely to be affected by this?

The use of vehicles will change slightly, with farms undertaking a variety of different environmental projects for the first time. It could lead to more farms investing in multi-purpose vehicles such as UTVs or telehandlers; it could also pave the way for new developments in tractor attachments. Which is why it’s even more important to work with our broker partners to understand these new usage needs and the vehicle mechanics so we can offer tailored cover that fits.

I think agri business owners will definitely look at investing in more environmentally-friendly vehicles, such as EVs or hydrogen-powered machinery, but cost will be the biggest challenge, particularly for SMEs and family farms. And, of course, people want proof of their effectiveness before investing.

What do you see as the biggest growth opportunity for brokers in the region?

A great effort is underway to encourage the next generation of farmers to take over as older farmers step back. This could mean there will be an injection of new energy into the sector, leading to more progressive business plans – great news for brokers who can stay close to these customers and help them manage any business diversification and motor insurance needs.

Why does ERS stand out as an attractive partner to brokers?

Stability, service, flexibility and expertise in specialist motor risks across a vast array of vehicles and Lloyds A+ rated products. We’re able to make decisions without involving a third-party insurer, provide a personal touch, ensure consistency of approach, and support a wider range of risks than our competitors.

Finally, sum-up the current state of the agri market in the North?

I’m seeing a lot of change in the region – from staff changes in brokers to buy-outs to new emerging MGAs targeting key brokers. And alongside this, there is also a lot of change amongst insurers in rating structures, appetites and flexibility. Again, this is why brokers need to find an insurance partner they can trust to be consistent – regardless of what is happening in the wider market.

Building long term relationships with brokers is vital to our business. It’s a partnership, and by continuing to develop our regional knowledge and insight, we can be more informed and quicker with our responses to ensure we’re offering the right level of cover for the individual risk.

Looking for Agriculture or rural business motor cover in the North of England?

Connect with Sam on LinkedIn here

Discover more about our ERS agriculture motor products here

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