It’s time for reflection as I write my final column for Arable Farming and a recap on the past two years as chair of the NFU’s Combinable Crops board.
We are delighted continued lobbying by the NFU and the wider farming community has resulted in a relaxation for the crop diversification element of greening, or the three crop rule. At a time of unprecedented challenge and following a disastrous autumn, this will be a huge relief for many farmers and will have removed a huge burden, helping clear the minds of farmers who have been under continuous pressure.
Another challenge from the wet autumn comes around expiry dates on plant protection products, specifically chlorothalonil. We worked in the UK and Brussels to keep chlorothalonil approved and have since had discussions with Defra and Copa-Cogeca to try and come up with usable solutions as it is phased-out, but unfortunately the current legal position is very clear. Authorisation for the disposal, storage and use of existing stocks ends on May 20, 2020.
The NFU’s advice to members is to work with your agronomy advisers on-farm to maximise opportunities to use the product by this date, after which it is not legal to have it stored on-farm. We wish it had been possible to find another option and we have looked at all avenues, to no avail.
Brett Askew, our crops board delegate for the North East, has led the fight on bioethanol for the past 10 years and we were delighted to see the consultation on the implementation of E10 launched earlier this month.
This has been one of the NFU’s key priorities for the past 12 months and it feels as if we are close to a breakthrough.
Fingers crossed we finally see this greener fuel option delivered at the pumps, which would secure the national processing infrastructure and a valuable market for wheat which, at full capacity, could use almost two million tonnes.
It would also provide an important feed source for the livestock sector, as starch is converted to ethanol during the production process, with the protein element concentrated into high-grade animal feed.
At a time where we have a surplus of starch crops and a shortage of protein crops around the world, it effectively turns wheat into ethanol and protein, reducing our reliance on imported, less sustainable, protein sources.
Others policy areas we have covered include:
As I move on to a new role as vice-president of the NFU, I would like to welcome the new crops team at the helm: Harriette Roberts, who has taken over from Jack Watts as chief adviser; Matt Culley, who is the new chairman after four years on the board as South East delegate and who will be taking over this column; and James Cox as vice-chairman, who has six years’ experience representing the South West on the board.
Finally, I would like to thank all the board members for their enthusiasm, contributions and support over the past two years. I also say a big thank you to Jack Watts for bringing a fresh approach and for challenging the board to step outside its comfort zone, often being the critical friend we needed.
I will always think about the comparison of certain elements to the financial services industry before it became regulated.
Lastly, I say thanks to you, the readers. I hope you have found these articles interesting and of use. It is you, our farming friends, who are always at the forefront of our minds as we are developing policy. And I will just finish by saying I hope you and your families stay safe over the coming weeks.