Farmers’ futures are in the hands of politicians as far as Brexit is concerned, Perthshire arable farmer and chair of NFUS combinable crops committee Ian Sands says. It’s time they got on with the job of getting us the right deal.
As l write this we are probably two-thirds of the way through drilling spring barley after the latest start l can ever remember. Conditions are not ideal.
We got very little ploughing done in January and February – the plus side to that is the drill was serviced within an inch of being nearly new again. A lot of the late ploughed land is drying out quite hard, so thank God we have power harrow drill set up.
I market my malting barley two ways – some through our local co-op and the rest on a contract which l get a premium over November wheat futures that l can lock into when l think it is right.
What a nightmare that is. l have been just about convinced it is time to sell when some politician comes away with a statement and the wheat futures drop and I have missed my chance again.
Brexit is a very strange animal. On the plus side, our cereal prices are probably £30 above our European partners – at the moment.
This is great, but, and it has become a big but, fertiliser and crop chemical prices are creeping up and as for machinery, well, these guys have really jumped on the Brexit band wagon.
Just prior to Christmas, we made enquires into changing our combine. Once l picked myself up off the floor after being told the price, l told him to come back when he had sobered up.
The cost of replacing machinery is becoming a real issue as the returns are not there to cover the depreciation.
Another problem Brexit is causing in our area, as we have thriving soft fruit sector, is labour. There is a genuine worry that there really will not be the quantity of pickers to harvest all their crops this year.
And it is not just pickers that are a problem, it is getting skilled tractor drivers as well.
One of our neighbour’s men retired, which started a chain reaction any estate agent would be proud of!
Another neighbour’s man moved to that job and so on and so on. Somebody somewhere has been a loser.
As an industry we need to market ourselves as a good industry to work in and attract young people in order to become less short-sighted.
I am very lucky my son is at home working in our business and it is great to have fresh ideas and enthusiasm.
l just wish it did not cost so much to replace or renew, and that is where l come in to remind him this is not a sprint but a marathon. By the look of things, it might be an uphill struggle for a few years to come.
Change is coming whether we want it or not, and I am sure opportunity will come to those who look for it, but how it will happen and how long it will take? No-one knows.
We are in the hands of the politicians now – let’s hope they stop their political point scoring off each other and get the deals we so badly need.
None of us have a crystal ball. l saw the great Tom Hunter on the television a few nights ago and he gave this piece of advice which has stuck in my mind.
He said: “Sometimes you will fail, but fail quick and cheap and start again! Let’s hope our respective governments do not let us fail, or fail us, as nothing we do in agriculture is cheap and our standards are high as demanded of us by Government and public alike.”