This month's comment on what’s hot in agriculture

Topical Comment

Topical comment

The Agricultural Bill 2017 - 2019

The Bill seeks to provide "stability" for farmers as we leave the EU and seek to comply with WTO agreements.  It had its second reading in the House of Commons on 10 October - to be followed by Committee stage, Report stage and a third reading, before it follows the same series in the House of Lords - and still no Royal Assent until appropriate consideration of amendments has taken place!

DBP and other commentators feel it's highly populist in its approach, light on attraction for food producing farmers with much potential devilment in its details.

Direct payments (Basic Payments) cannot be relied on beyond 2021 and will end by 2027.  Unclear yet are either alternative schemes or the physical and financial impact of them.  Speaking in Norfolk, Sir John Major shared DBP's concern about food production, food imports, the Countryside and, particularly, the availability of affordable labour for harvesting fruit and vegetables.

Farmers are to be further persuaded to care for their soils and water (don't they already?) whilst more public access and a "managing agency" are to be expected, along with additional regulations.  Will Agricultural Tenancies Act (FBT) tenants, particularly, seek to cash up any annual payment entitlements in lump sums?  Much evaluation will be needed about the worth of AHA tenancies and remaining succession rights.  What about company tenancies?  All these will be crucial for negotiations and sound decision making.

That Basic Payments have contributed to the size of rents to landowners and profits for farmers cannot be disputed.    Yet unknown is the impact that their reduction or removal will have.

"Natural Capital" that is soundly measurable, efficient in its assessment and fair in its application is now going to have to be invented in practice.  East Anglia alone is multi-faceted - Fens, forests, water courses, livestock, climate crops and population.  Views, skylines and colours are unique to it.  Not all compare simply with the South West or the North East.  Future judges of these "public goods" are going to be well tested.

Finally, the loss of the Common Agricultural Polciy (CAP) to UK farmers is triggering tougher rules for the food supply chain to supply "market data".  The Bill hints at "obligations" on first purchasers of agricultural products for written terms relating to volumes, prices, timing and methods of payment.  Surely this is hardly novel, and since cash replaced barter has been common practice?

What we do clearly know is that Agricultural policy will not support future farming profits in the way it has done in the past.  The outcome of Brexit negotiations and the UK Agricultural Policy has yet to be defined, but the results are likely to be unpopular.  The availability and cost of migrant labour remains in jeopardy and there will be adverse changes in the regulatory burden on UK farmers.  Whatever materialises, high output value to low input cost will be the key ratio.  After 40 years of stable policy, there are massive changes to be faced in future.

 

Worshipful Company of Farmers : Installation 9 October 2018

On 9 October Rosie Carne was installed as the 67th Master of the Company, following in the footsteps of Julian Sayers.  Traditionally, the installation was preceded by the service of Harvest Thanksgiving, held at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield.  The ceremony included the appointment of David Bolton as Senior Warden and Richard Whitlock as Junior Warden for the ensuing year.

 

David Bolton Partners is disappointed to read of the coming loss of Meurig Raymond – current NFU President – given the efforts he has been successfully making during the Brexit negotiations thus far. A copy of his resignation letter follows below in full.

 

Worshipful Company of Farmers : Installation Lunch 10 October 2017


On 10 October Julian Sayers was installed as the 66th Master of the Company following in the footsteps of Philip Wynn. The installation, which was held at the Priory Church of St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, was preceded by the service of Harvest Thanksgiving. The ceremony of installing the new Master included the appointment of Rosie Carne as Senior Warden and David Bolton as Junior Warden for the coming year.

 

 

Agricultural Attache Derbenskiy took part in the Worshipful Company of Farmers' annual event


On 17 January 2017 the Agricultural Attaché of the Russian Embassy Vladimir Derbenskiy took part at the Worshipful Company of Farmers' annual event.
He met the leaders of the Worshipful Company of Farmers and representatives of British agricultural Unions and Associations to discuss the development of cooperation between Russian and British farmers and agro-businesses.

 

 

Defra's latest basic payment scheme news

Go to GOV.UK to access all the 40 page detail. Key points include...
 

  1. SPS transfer date is delayed from 19 to 21 October - or from mid-January 2015 until April/May 2015.
  2. Entitlement values are reported at around £165 per unit (plus VAT). They may rise to over £200 and then sink back through March 2015. The non-SDA value could be around £190 per hectare per annum but will be subject to exchange rate fluctuations and other influences.
  3. Pick a moment and register with the on-line Information Service. You will need it for making claims under BPS and future Grants. You are promised massive amounts of help (mentioned eight times on two pages of the Bulletin!)
  4. Further details remain to come on the topic of "Active Farmer", but this does not look threatening.
  5. The cropping period within which inspections for the two or three crop rule will be between 1 May and 30 June - but note where crops are harvested during this period evidence may be needed of what was there. Photographs, seed labels or similar. You are reminded to read the small print.
  6. The definition of Winter and Spring crops and varieties is clearer. It's based upon the National List and the PGRO recommendations. It defaults to a Spring decision in the event of any lack of clarity from this direction.
  7. Ecological Focus Areas: more information is needed on hedges, which should arrive by October/November. Nevertheless a warning is given that using hedges as an EFA contributor in 2015 will delay payments as DEFRA will probably seek to inspect every one that is declared to check its correctness and eligibility!

Go to GOV.UK to access all the 40 page detail. Key points include:
 

  1. SPS transfer date is delayed from 19 to 21 October - or from mid-January 2015 until April/May 2015.
  2. Entitlement values are reported at around £165 per unit (plus VAT). They may rise to over £200 and then sink back through March 2015. The non-SDA value could be around £190 per hectare per annum but will be subject to exchange rate fluctuations and other influences.
  3. Pick a moment and register with the on-line Information Service. You will need it for making claims under BPS and future Grants. You are promised massive amounts of help (mentioned eight times on two pages of the Bulletin!)
  4. Further details remain to come on the topic of "Active Farmer", but this does not look threatening.
  5. The cropping period within which inspections for the two or three crop rule will be between 1 May and 30 June - but note where crops are harvested during this period evidence may be needed of what was there. Photographs, seed labels or similar. You are reminded to read the small print.
  6. The definition of Winter and Spring crops and varieties is clearer. It's based upon the National List and the PGRO recommendations. It defaults to a Spring decision in the event of any lack of clarity from this direction.
  7. Ecological Focus Areas: more information is needed on hedges, which should arrive by October/November. Nevertheless a warning is given that using hedges as an EFA contributor in 2015 will delay payments as DEFRA will probably seek to inspect every one that is declared to check its correctness and eligibility!
  8. DEFRA and the Commission continue to argue about hedges where one side is a ditch or road, or another owner, or not arable. The elegant question of gaps in hedges also has to be tackled.
  9. Buffer Strips need to be next to water courses, or parallel to them. They need a minimum 1 metre width. The same strip can meet both the greening and the cross compliance rules.
  10. The minimum areas for nitrogen fixing crops, catching cover crops and fallow is 0.01 hectare (120 square yards approximately).
  11. Fallow land needs to be at least 2 metres wide for the period 1 January to 30 June in the claim year. You may not sow grass during this period but wild bird seed and nectar mixes can.
  12. No hedges and trees can now be cut between 1 March and 31 August.
  13. Dual use will be further clarified later but signals seem to be that the Tenant will need to include the land when calculating his greening requirement and the Landlord may not do so.
  14. The maximum to be lost from failing the greening rules will be 30% of the total BPS. The degree of penalty will depend upon the level of infringement and it does not seem that a single infringement will defeat the whole 30%. Inspections are likely to be far more frequent because DEFRA lives in fear of EU fines.


For further information do contact DBP and do not miss David Bolton's comments in Farmers Weekly of 15 August (page 7). - EDITED

Topical comment

Unit 1 Manor Farm
The Street
Bridgham
Norfolk
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Thanks to Farmers Weekly for the use of certain images and also to David Boughey Photography.

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