There were mixed views from farming and agricultural business representatives to the measures announced in the Chancellor's Autumn Statement on Wednesday.

While some policies were welcomed, such as cuts to self-employed National Insurance, the NFU warned that “the majority look set to miss out" on some of Jeremy Hunt’s headline measures.

Robert Sullivan, head of farm business at GSC Grays, said farming businesses, already facing significant financial pressures, could be seriously impacted by the decision to raise the minimum wage by more than a pound to £11.44 per hour from April next year.

The new rate will apply to 21 and 22-year-old workers for the first time.

“The rise in the minimum wage will increase costs at a time when farmers, especially those operating smaller farms, are battling to afford and retain the necessary labour," he said.

“The minimum wage rise could potentially make other industries more attractive to work in, so the only option farmers have will be to increase wages still further. Farm labour is becoming a very scarce commodity in the industry and there is a great deal of concern as to where we are going to find replacements for existing farmers and farm workers who are going to retire in the next five to ten years.”

Darlington and Stockton Times: Robert Sullivan, head of farm business at GSC Grays

The NFU said among the areas of most farming interest, two million self-employed people will benefit by an average of £350 a year, after Class Two National Insurance was abolished entirely and Class Four National Insurance cut from nine per cent to eight per cent. Announcing that, the Chancellor said that was to recognise groups including “the farmers who kept us fed” during the pandemic.

NFU president Minette Batters said: “While some of the announcements such as cuts to National Insurance contributions, extensions to current business rate reliefs and new 5G innovation regions have the potential to benefit some farm businesses, the majority look set to miss out on some of the Chancellor’s headline measures.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt delivers his autumn statement in the House of Commons in London

“For instance, while we acknowledge the announcement of full expensing, most farm businesses are ineligible as the vast majority are unincorporated businesses.

“Similarly, while it’s positive to see streamlining of the planning system, especially on grid connections, again this appears limited to large scale projects.

“To make a real difference, the Chancellor’s focus must be on targeted investment incentives to stabilise, grow and decarbonise our sector.”

Country Land and Business Association president Victoria Vyvyan said from a tax perspective, the Autumn Statement "failed to recognise the potential of the rural economy, with thousands of rural businesses excluded from what were largely urban-centric measures".

“Rural businesses have suffered a very high tax burden at the same time as high costs," she added. "While some measures, such as cuts to self-employed National Insurance, are welcome, they will not help businesses in the countryside to grow.

“The tax system needs to be simplified and designed to modernise the sector, driving productivity growth. This means extending the full expensing regime beyond large corporates to include unincorporated businesses as well buildings and infrastructure.

“We welcome measures to help speed up the planning system and provide extra funding for house-building – but government has been talking about planning and housing reform for decades. It now needs urgently to deliver on its promises.”