The pictures show a very sad sight. That is only the third combine fire I have experienced in my farming career and the first on a combine I was actually driving. Practically, while the time from first seeing smoke to a full blaze was short, it is sufficient to leave the machine safely and do one’s best with fire extinguishers while waiting for the fire brigade who were on the scene at Wye within 10 minutes of the call.

We were able to cut a fire break and move the straw away with a JCB Loadall preventing the field of wheat joining the conflagration. A demonstration machine enabled us to finish harvest and the NFU Mutual dealt with the aftermath of loss adjustment and removal of the burnt out machine efficiently and fairly, as always.
Nonetheless it was not in our plan to change that machine for three more years and it does mean we have unplanned financial expenditure and a changed capital investment programme. On the plus side no one was hurt, not least me.

Those of you who run Claas combines are no doubt interested in where the fire originated. I cannot give a definitive answer but it was inside the machine and by the time I was looking in, there was fire throughout the inside of the machine including the grain pan, sieves, rotors and every ledge you could see through the smoke.

Other than that, harvest finished well and the good yields continued. I am pleased with the outcome for wheat and barley with all of the spring barley making a good malting specification and as the last of the wheat was feed varieties, the quality did not matter. We probably did dry a quarter of the wheat but only by a few per cent.
Eventually all of the straw got baled in early September and while of variable quality no doubt it will all find a home. Oilseed has been drilled and has all emerged even though we are back into a typical September dry spell and crops desperately need moisture.

In the absence of neonicotinoid seed treatment we have seen cabbage stem flea beetle damage on all of the August drilled and emerged seedlings but with far less in the September emergence crops. None of it is a write off but it is still a lesson that we have lost a valuable chemical.

One of the most striking things about this year is the germination and emergence of blackgrass and ryegrass seedlings. Clearly the combination of weather we have seen has broken dormancy in these seeds and with the late August rains wherever we have grass weed problems we have a veritable lawn emerging. Luckily we have glyphosate to spray it off and we look forward to dealing with further flushes before we contemplate autumn drilling. It will be interesting to see exactly what reduction of the weed seed bank we have achieved.

We have finally seen an agriculture bill arrive in parliament. To say it is short on detail is an understatement but the direction of travel has barely changed from the health and harmony consultation and that is all about focusing on delivery of public goods. That still seems to start and finish with the environment and a total lack of focus on productive agriculture and domestic food supply. One cannot help but think that this is Michael Gove’s legacy legislation at DEFRA as he clearly has his eye on the horizon and new exciting ministerial opportunities for himself.

I know I am often critical of Gove’s negative attitude to farming and preoccupation with the environment but that is probably a reflection of his own interests and prejudices. I have heard him described as a revolutionary environmentalist (whatever that is) by a previous Conservative prime minister (the one that hugged a husky).
I have always been quite open that I voted to remain in Europe for economic reasons as I view whatever trade deal we eventually do as being inferior to the current situation and thereby causing economic damage to the UK economy at the very least in the short and medium term.

Clearly farming can be further damaged by how Gove treats the industry when agricultural policy returns fully to Westminster and he has set off on a course that has the potential to cause maximum damage which can only lead to a restructuring of agriculture. It is the story of Brexit for the whole economy. The actions of our politicians will determine how bad the damage will be and at the moment they seem intent on making the outcome worse.

At the beginning of September I had the good fortune to have an excellent lunch at the House of Commons with a local MP. The guest of honour and speaker was a very prominent back bench MP of the Brexit persuasion. He started with the comment that the current government really should listen to and do more for business and: as he was speaking to a group of businessmen and women, that was a good opening gambit. He then spoke passionately about all the political reasons to leave Europe.

We then came to questions and he was asked about where we would source labour post Brexit without the freedom of movement from Europe and how much longer business would have to endure the damaging uncertainty surrounding Brexit. On labour, he had three points to make. The freedom of movement had kept wage inflation low and that had financially damaged the most vulnerable members of his constituency, so was a bad thing.

There were still about 2.5 million unemployed people in the UK who could be retrained to fill the jobs we had vacant and thirdly, he said that the future was all about increasing productivity. This meant business investing in technology and by making labour more expensive business would be forced to invest and improve productivity (he neglected to connect that process to less employment nor higher wages to inflation).

On uncertainty his answer was that in his experience it is only through uncertainty that business makes profits so it is not a bad thing at all and by that I assume he meant financial services in the City of London. Obviously between the opening gambit and concluding remarks his concern for business had got a bit lost. You may well be wondering at this stage which political persuasion the speaker was but I can assure you he was a prominent Conservative MP, just one who needs to get out a bit more often and visit a few ordinary businesses – hopefully before he runs for the post of leader of the Conservative party or joins the cabinet.