This week from the editor, Ben Briggs.
History, it seems, is repeating itself. Having rifled through archive editions of Farmers Guardian from the second half of 1976, many of the concerns from the heatwave of that year are reoccurring in this balmy summer of 2018. While the format of the publication might be different – broadsheet newspaper then, magazine now – and the cover prices somewhat contrasting – 9 pence in 1976 – the headlines and stories are strikingly similar.
And while those editions of 1976 reported on the dawning reality of what being a member of Europe would mean for agriculture, while this week’s edition of FG focuses on our imminent exit, the weather woes are very familiar, despite the 42-year gap in between.
FG headlines back then talk of quality issues in the arable harvest; hay and straw being in short supply; auction marts seeing a mixture of boom and bust as livestock numbers ebbed and flowed according to the weather; and winter feed stocks fading fast as farmers were forced to winter feed stocks to their livestock.
Those same editions from 1976 also spoke of how dairy farmers had seen their farmgate prices rise to 9.5ppl, which exposes how this week’s rise to 31ppl, while welcome, is hardly in line with where inflation should have taken that particular commodity.
Nostalgia aside, however, the ongoing toll of the current heatwave is storing up problems for the farming industry later in the year and shows why politicians need to keep abreast of the situation and not be afraid to act in the form of support if required.
The industry must also start to formulate plans for how feed and bedding can be accessed in the event that rain does not fall in the next few weeks. CLA president Tim Breitmayer might have praised Wales’ politicians for being in touch with their constituents during his appearance at the Royal Welsh Show, but the ongoing pressure of the heatwave will test that supposed empathy.
Sunshine and Brexit might come to define 2018, but, dare we say it, a bit of rain now would ensure we remember the year with fondness, as many do with 1976.