I hope that when you are reading this the dust is flying in the fields and spring drilling is well under way.
My greatest fear is that the autumn and winter weather continues into spring and that we don’t have a kind March.
I know that some are looking at fallow as an option and others feel that the land is just so wet it won’t be possible to get drilling at all, but for many, if we have a good opportunity to establish our spring crops, then there is still hope.
Grain markets are reasonably firm and even though barley is a significant discount to wheat, it is still a much better price than even three years ago, which should help ensure that a good spring crop makes a margin.
I know that through this period the supply chain, and as we move forward, grain merchants are all going to feel the pinch. But I really feel there has been a missed opportunity to show a united front and allow some flexibility in what will be remembered as being one of the most difficult autumn campaigns on record.
We all understand the importance of plant breeding and paying royalties to plant breeders to reward the critical effort they make in developing new varieties.
When we tried to build some flexibility to enable an easing of the farm saved seed rules, critically maintaining the payment of royalties, we were told there was no evidence there would be a shortage of seed and there was no way it could be supported.
It has then been disturbing to see the derogations that have been applied for to allow lower germination samples of beans and oats to be sold as seed and that we are now importing spring seed from the Continent to fulfil demand at crazy prices.
Surely this is in nobody’s interest and a pragmatic approach would have been favourable?
I will then move on to the three crop rule or crop diversification that has been so difficult for many farms to fulfil and they now find themselves scrapping round to make sure they meet the criteria for what is simply bureaucracy.
There will be absolutely no environmental benefit from growing spring wheat, spring barley and spring oats all on the same farm when it could have been one crop.
They are all far lower input than a winter planted crop would have been anyway. We have challenged Defra that, especially now we are leaving the EU, surely they are able to offer a derogation, as the Irish have found a way to do.
They blame the EU rules but at this critical time we need a Defra department that is going to stand up and support UK farming, creating innovative policy and opportunities rather than, as many would feel, playing the policeman.
Finally, it is great to see that George Eustice has been appointed as Secretary of State.
He knows his way around the department and he knows the farming brief very well. In recent years he has been supportive on some critical policies.
Most relevant for arable farmers was that of glyphosate re-registration. As we look to get this product renewed it will be vital to have somebody that understands its importance.
We look forward to working with him and for him to be a figurehead of a department that really is fighting for the future of an invigorated and profitable farming industry.