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Good Evans: Brace yourself for influx from food import deals

This month Roger Evans tells us about the need to keep production in check, believes that food imports will be the most likely expedient for an urban-centric government, and yet again worries over what the next TB test has in store.

If you are not on an aligned milk contract, and most of us aren’t, in all probability your milk buyer still requires you to produce some autumn and winter milk.

 

And if that’s how it is for most of us, it’s likely that you need to average 24-25 pence a litre for that milk just to break even.

 

To my mind there is no future, no point, in just breaking even. What sort of life is that? Where is the money for investment to come from? In the recent past we have all, at times, received less than 20p. For every month we have had less than 24-25p we need a month at 28-30p to balance it out. And then we are still only breaking even.

 

This year my Basic Payment Scheme money came to over 2ppl. What odds do you put on that continuing in two years’ time? Very slim if you ask me. When the end of milk quotas were planned, we were told to expect volatility of milk prices. Volatility means ups and downs.

 

We were told to expect having a three-year cycle. One thing you can rely on with volatility is that there is very little about it that you can rely on.

 

You are not sure when it will turn up, you don’t know how deep the troughs will be, you don’t know how high the peaks will be, and you are not really sure when it will go away again. Well we now know, to our cost, what the troughs are like, and the one thing we do know for sure is that volatility is directly linked to volume.

 

That is the only aspect that we could control ourselves. Ian Potter alluded to it in his article last month. Volumes need to be better managed. The break even scenario that I have outlined has no future. We have to aspire to something better. We need some sort of volume management as we go forward.

 

That implies a quota system of some sort. A voluntary code simply would not work. The best way to drive change is with money, and the people who control the money are the people who buy our milk. For the people who supply milk to them, to be just breaking even is no good for them.

 

Trade deals There is one other factor that will affect all our futures, but I can’t quantify it, neither can anyone else. Former President Obama has been mocked for saying the UK, post-Brexit, would be at the back of the queue for trade deals. Well there is another queue forming. The Government is scouring the world for trade deals.

 

The only deals on offer are with countries that have food, lots of food, to export. The Government needs these deals badly if only to save face. The detail of the deal will favour the other party, but that won’t matter so long as there is a deal. Where do you think that the interests of the UK farmer will be in that particular queue?

 

No need to look over your shoulder, there’ll be no one behind you, we’ll be right at the back! Over the years my family have dropped hints about what they think of me.

 

There’s a poster in the kitchen supposedly from the National Sarcasm Society. It says ‘Like we need your advice’. The mug I’m drinking tea from at the moment says ‘Grumpy old git’. If we sail on blithely into the future without

some sort of volume control you will probably see me parading up and down carrying a placard ‘The end is nigh’.

 

When I think back over the years, the prospect of having a ‘dry time’ has greatly influenced me. For most of those years I’ve had too many cows on a smallish acreage and if it were a dry summer I would not have enough silage and I would end up buying silage bales, or whatever else I could get, and the cost could be catastrophic.

 

Now we have a bigger acreage and can grow crops, but we always grow crops that, although we intend to sell them, we can feed if it’s a dry time. Cereals Mostly we have grown cereals that we could put in the silage pit if we had to, as wholecrop, but we’ve not had to recently and they have been combined for sale.

 

We’re not really equipped for cereal selling. We have a good concrete floor where we can park them but if they need drying we’ve got to cart them about. And if yours need drying, so does everyone else’s, so it’s not that easy to find somewhere to take them.

 

With cereal prices in the doldrums, I hit on the idea of growing fodder beet. You can feed them or sell them, you can graze them, and they should come to more money than cereals. Plus the keeper thinks you are a hero. I have become the biggest fodder beet grower in the parish. It should all be simple, but it isn’t, is it. It rarely is.

 

“You should get all that fodder beet in and clamped up.” “If you put all that fodder beet in a clamp it will warm up and rot.” “You should leave it in the field and the sugar content will increase.”

 

“If you leave it in the field the frost will spoil it.” Last year we left a lot in the field until March and April, we had to, and it didn’t seem to hurt but it was mild.

 

Mind you, if you have fodder beet to sell there is nothing like some frost and snow to set the phone ringing. But I don’t really want that, any more than I want a dry time.

 

All I want is a simple life. I don’t trust this global warming and I like to be ready for winter. I like to know where the chain is, I don’t want to be looking for it under snow. We’ve got sand and salt ready and the machine that puts sand in the cubicles does a good job putting sand on the lane.

 

However, right at the front of my mind is the fact we have another TB test next week. Unfortunately, there’s nothing at all we can do to get ready for the outcome of that!

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