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IT”S BACK to the grindstone. The Christmas break always seems to bring some sanity back and allows time for reflection and future planning. Apart from being something to look forward to during the dark days of winter, without this break, I doubt we that we could ever see the wood for the trees.

Somebody suggested I list all the rule and regulation changes this government has imposed on us since 1997. The problem is, this would take at least three Focus articles to do so and getting to grips just with the mid-term review and SFP is mind-boggling enough.

I sincerely hope DEFRA is going to be flexible with the IACS/SFP changeovers. Apart from only just receiving our IACS money, we still await the set-aside and soil management rules, which, I understand, will not be sent until the end of January – two weeks after the set-aside period starts.

Meanwhile, I an engrossed in completing an IACS 22 form regarding our multitude of woods, ponds and land not already entered on our Rural Land Register maps, for claiming the Entry Level Stewardship Scheme.

Talking of IACS, what happened to the idea of early payment due to the extra hardship suffered by the wet harvest? Could it have been a case of too much red tape being placed upon DEFRA? This was the latest we have ever received our payment.

What is more, despite recent talks, it is unlikely that our SFP will be paid before April 2006. The 2005 payment window is Dec 1, 2005-June 30, 2006, so the EU has the opportunity to delay payment until its next financial year begins.

 We are told the new scheme will become less bureaucratic, but what other industry could or would put up with the massive changes we have had to endure, especially while trying to carry out their normal day-to-day work?

Farmers focus- Richard Ward


DEPRESSION and stress seem to be common words in farming circles these days, for a variety of reasons, such as the low pressure depressions which caused our wet harvest and made autumn drilling difficult, and the depressed cereal prices we”re experiencing.

As the autumn workload eases, the clocks change and daylight hours become shorter, many of us find it becomes difficult to keep motivated. Some feel there is nobody to talk to, except other

However things may not be as gloomy as they might appear. First, since the end of October, the weather seems to have cheered up. Although without doubt we have crop damage due to waterlogging and slugs, earlier fears about not completing any autumn spraying have subsided.

Fields we couldn”t walk on two weeks ago have dried surprisingly well and apart from a few wet patches, travelling conditions have been good. Only stressed crops established by min-till remain to be treated, once they have recovered a little more.

Cereal prices have risen a bit, which helps. We are told that soon food demands created by the relocation of several million Chinese from country to city to work in factories alone will cause a rise in world prices. China”s increased demand for oil and steel is responsible for the recent hike in world prices in those markets.

Discussing stresses with our wives and families can have a remarkably calming effect. But let”s not forget that in really serious cases of depression, there are several organisations that can help, such as, Farming Crisis Network and the Rural Stress Information Network.

 However, there is nothing like a decent spell of weather to help revive the spirits. ENDS (306 WORDS) Word count 321

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