Farming needs real political support | South East Farmer

Farming needs real political support

Writers Posted 05/01/22
Given present fertiliser price trends, the viability of growing many food crops in the UK is diminishing rapidly.

Does anybody who still listens to the once reliable BBC News ever stop to question what they hear? Do you ever count the number of times the words “could”, “might” or “maybe” are used?

When younger I was told such words signified speculation rather than fact, so if I wanted the truth I should just believe the BBC. No more! With the exception of their speculative weather forecasts, today’s news is seldom reported truthfully but always with a ‘slant’, increasingly slewed towards the bitter ‘remain’ brigade.

There seem to be rather too many self-proclaimed ‘experts’ around these days, reporting their views as fact with pre-formed ideas and unable to see clearly the issues they should be reporting on.

This is also certainly the case with almost every article seen, particularly regarding subjects one knows something about. The result is that we are fed a diet of half-truths or distortions, that colour the way viewers or listeners are encouraged to think. There is actually some good news out there, but it’s damned hard to find in any of today’s media offerings. Much is actually not reported, or is simply ignored.

Farming needs some real political support and quickly. The old single farm payment scheme is going to be greatly missed in a couple of years, and if they think it can be replaced by all this ‘airy fairy’ (arty farty) low carbon, tree planting, greening ‘bunkum’, the Government has another think coming.

Given present fertiliser price trends, the viability of growing many food crops in the UK is diminishing rapidly. While it might be OK to import food from the Antipodes, I wouldn’t be too sure about most other places, like the US, or even our closest non-English speaking neighbour France; increasingly irritated by our ‘out of Europe’ vote, they are no more to be relied upon than in the past, ignoring the fact that their own intransigence was chiefly responsible for the UK leaving that ‘little club’.

Still no firm decision on the 2022 cropping here. It would be good to feel we were actually helping local farmers by growing maize, a real feed for local cattle, but those herds are rarer by the week.

That aside, planting is nearly complete in the new forest up in Argyll. We are investigating the infant carbon credit scheme, although how the UK can absorb all the carbon emissions from China, Russia and India I’m uncertain.

Nitrogen prices have almost trebled within the past year, putting the cost of crop production up to a level which, on many farms, will certainly render the growing of cereals, and subsequently some of our most basic feedstuffs, totally uneconomic. Many farmers simply won’t grow anything and will fallow their land. Those who purchased their fertiliser early, before the supply crisis exploded, will be fine for the 2022 season, assuming they have taken their deliveries, but if they have not yet been delivered they will surely be concerned.

We are lucky this time around in that there will only be some 50 acres unplanted, and I am quite prepared to take the pain of leaving that fallow, as opposed to the greater pain of planting a crop and knowing that if we do it properly we will almost certainly lose money on the operation. With basic payments still operating, although reduced, the blow is softened, making for an easier choice. It could even be miscanthus now there is a market for it.

I don’t think we will be the only ones thinking this way and I wonder if ministers, who presently seem unable to see beyond all their totally unachievable ‘Glaswegian eco hype’ have any true idea of what’s happening. Or, indeed, care?

Don’t they see the problems looming if the country continues on its present path? Here in Sussex, they seem oblivious to the spread of new housing on true ‘green field’ land, the destruction of natural habitat and huge losses of our small songbirds, whilst blabbering on about things the rest of the world is clearly not going to be doing, whatever the leaders may agree to on our TV screens. I am afraid I’m fast losing faith in Boris Johnson being the leader we hoped for, since he appears to be wife Carrie’s poodle. The man needs to remember his manifesto pledges… and quickly.

We still have major ongoing problems with Southern Water and their release of semi-treated sewage across our land after heavy rains. They still obfuscate, yet we wetland farmers all know they do it.

I quite understand their problem, fully accepting that properly treated sewage has little option but to go out to sea, but to get it there it has to be correctly treated, and the Environment Agency simply has to get off its backside and clean our neglected rivers so the stuff goes to the sea instead of coming back inland. This idea does now seem to be getting some traction.

On a sad note that I’m sure will be shared by farmers the length and breadth of Sussex, Peter Payne, of the well-known family firm Paynes Southdown Bee Farms at Hassocks, died back in October. I had seen Peter tending his hives on our hill farm every year since the late sixties. He was always so enthusiastic and so cheerful, and we always had a natter about his little workers. He was a true countryman, a great tonic to meet, and he will be greatly missed by many people.


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