Don’t miss this month’s new look Arable Farming. Take a look at the digital edition today.
A familiar face is missing from the pages of this issue following the death in mid-January of Talking Arable columnist Jim Bullock (see page 4). Jim was a long-standing contributor to Arable Farming and I know his wry observations on the highs and lows of conservation tillage were essential reading for many. He wrote with humility, humour and a desire to share his experiences –good and bad – with fellow farmers, earning enormous respect across the industry in the process.
Re-reading Jim’s last column for Arable Farming (January 2018 issue), written following a stay in hospital, I am struck by how motivated he was, sharing plans for spring drilling, reflecting on the glyphosate re-approval, pondering the ins and outs of pulse crops. We shall miss his insight, his infectious enthusiasm and his emails and calls asking for a short extension to his deadline to take some more photographs or check developments in the field. Farming has lost a source of great knowledge and experience and a significant voice. Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this sad time.
In terms of farming politics, the New Year got off to a lively start. Defra Secretary Michael Gove gave a bold but broadly-welcomed speech to the Oxford Farming Conference in early January in which he outlined the key areas he wants to drive change in farming. From an arable sector perspective, there was much to reflect on, with Mr Gove laying out his thinking on the environment, innovation, technology, soil health, farm support, labour and skills.
Then came the publication of the Government’s Environment Plan and a keynote speech from the Prime Minister. The promise of funding to develop ‘meaningful metrics’ to assess soil health and a pledge to explore ‘innovative’ funding mechanisms to promote long-term sustainable land management practices are to be cautiously welcomed, but commitments on ‘more effective’ application of the ‘polluter pays’ principle could see farmers penalised.
As we approach the last 12 months of our full membership of the EU, attention has turned to the transition period. So far the signs are negotiations are set to become even tougher.
Vital to farming is the Agriculture Bill, the proposals for which are expected soon. Without doubt the new Bill will bring a new set of rules. Be prepared to have a say on them.