As 2022 draws to a close, I think I could be forgiven for getting a little confused when reading the current headlines in the online farming press.
On the one hand, if I scroll down to details of the latest DEFRA survey of ‘farm business income’ for the year to end of February 2022, I see revealed quite staggering improvements in farm incomes across all farm types, except specialist pig farms. Specialist cereal farms saw average profits of £120,000 (up 67%). General cropping saw profits of £145,000 (more than double the year before), while dairy income rose to £140,000 (up 52%). Even the ‘Cinderella’ sector of lowland grazing farms saw average incomes of £34,000 (up 85%).
But then again, click on another page and I see that HSBC Head of Economics Mark Berrisford told farmers last month that a combination of the war in Ukraine, the loss of Basic Payments and the aftermath of Covid-19 meant that farms were operating in “a very dangerous world” with dire financial conditions “never experienced in our lifetimes”.
The reason there is such a difference in tone between the two stories, of course, is that a lot has happened since the end of February, in terms of rising costs on farms.
As the Tenant Farmers’ Association Chief Executive George Dunn puts it: “There will be no escape from the economic headwinds coming our way”. And if you’ve ever heard Mr Dunn speak in his austere Northern Ireland accent you’ll know that he could make reading the football scores sound terrifying if he wanted to.
Just when Mr Dunn’s chilly ‘winds’ will hit my farm is making me anxious. Quick frankly, any talk of winds always puts me on edge, as much of my farm sits close to the English Channel and can experience severe ‘salt burn’ after a big south westerly.
So for now, with the seasonal holiday approaching, I’m turning off mainstream media and relying instead on the private rolling news app – Ostrich News – that I’ve developed this past week. Its complex algorithms will deliver me only the kind of stories I really want to hear, automatically filtering out all the stuff that keeps me awake half the night.
And so, when I open the app tomorrow, the welcome page will remind me that I have a good quality, dry harvest in store. The banner headline will be that my winter wheat crop was drilled under perfect conditions. Scroll down and I’ll learn that those harvested crops are now worth considerably more than I budgeted for when I drilled them last year. Click on a link and I’ll discover I can postpone any heavy investment in machinery for a few years if economic decisions demand it.
Thanks to this distinctly selective news gathering app, a Happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year seem certain.
Why not develop your own?