OUR SUGAR beet has been lifted and ploughing is 90% done, all under good conditions.

At the moment we are flat out harvesting and grading sprouts.

The price is dramatically poor and there is little prospect of it getting better. All growers are struggling with two questions: What can we do at short notice to get the price higher, and what are we going to do next year?

For some it is already clear that the bank has decided for them.

There are two things that need to be changed. First is a reduction in plantings. Second, we as growers must get together again for some co-operative thinking.

In recent years everybody went their own way, so we are all punished by the big retailers.

They know that they will get their product. If producer A doesn’t want to sell, then B, C or D will.

Last week I attended a seminar on biodiversity. I was anxious to hear what will happen with the 20% farm subsidy which will go to the countryside. Will there be ways for farmers to benefit from it?

Our region has been set up as a pilot project to see what can be done with the support.

After hearing and reading what was proposed, I was disappointed. For arable farmers there is the possibility of sowing 3m wide strips of grass alongside our canals.

The idea is to encourage natural enemies so that we do not have to spray insecticides.

In theory, maybe, that is a good alternative, but in practice, no way.

It is important for farmers that we have someone sitting in the right chairs to influence how these subsidies are allocated.

I hope you all have a nice Christmas, and a positive start to 2005.