SEPTEMBER PROFESSIONAL PONDERINGS
Harvest Review and ELMs.
Whilst this year’s harvest has been very satisfying for many, with some farmers reporting their best year ever, celebrations have been muted by a sudden drop in cereal prices and generally disappointing oilseed rape performance.
Even considering my own hardened experience of agronomy, the extent of devastation caused by flea beetle last season was exceptional. The decision on whether or not to continue growing OSR has not been easy given its attributes as a principle break crop. Home-saving seed and a ‘wait to see what comes’ approach appears to be the general view, although a significant number of farmers have decided to drop the crop altogether. Whilst opinion varies on whether or not cultivation systems influence flea beetle activity, plant establishment is notably better where organic manures, such as sewage sludge, are included in the rotation. Spring crops established in good time last season also fared well and retain their status as integral options for crop rotations going forward.
Challenging times for livestock producers are showing some signs of improvement. Demand has picked up at Thrapston Market for quality lambs across all weights, with ‘Mediums’ topping £2.00/kg and ‘Heavies’ £1.98/kg. Our most recent breeding sale saw quality theaves achieving £10 to £15/head more than last year, which also reflects an encouraging determination to tackle Brexit head-on. Confidence is also returning to the beef store trade, with continental steers topping over £1,000/head and heifers towards £1,000/head.
Otherwise, the new Agriculture Bill on the horizon (provided MPs have time to discuss it!) proposes phasing out current subsidy payments from 2021 to 2027, and replacing BPS and Countryside Stewardship with ELMs (Environmental Land Management scheme) - a 25-year Environmental Plan that delivers ‘public money for public goods’. Initially ELMs is being introduced as a number of on-farm pilot projects across the country before wider release in 2024, with the last application year for full BPS monies planned for 2020. Farmers are also likely to be given the option to receive a one-off lump sum, with all BPS payments ‘delinked’ from the requirement to farm the land. We wait to see the reference year chosen which could lead to winners and losers.
There are changes ahead and many businesses are looking to review their business in preparation for the challenges and opportunities which might arise. I offer a bespoke business appraisal service for farmers, both arable and livestock, with a focus on maximising business competitiveness. Please do contact me if you require any assistance or wish to discuss this further.
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