So the early signs of the Christmas season are upon us. I put the fact that they seem to appear earlier and earlier every year down to global warming. Either way, there are houses and front drives in Clacton at the moment with enough voltage going through them to cause blackouts throughout Essex. When neon and fairy lights collide with Towie, power stations are put into overdrive.
But among all the gaudy decorations, many will remember that Christmas is a time of giving – and that’s exactly what many of us will be reminding the RPA throughout December and probably beyond.
For many of us, the IT meltdown we witnessed at the RPA in the spring was an unpleasant reminder of 2007 and a certain Mrs Beckett – now remembered as the ghost of Christmas past.
We recollect how she wagged her finger at us and told us she would get our support payments when, and only when, her Christmas elves at the RPA were ready. And so many of us waited until after Easter as our overdrafts flashed red like the nose on Rudolph the reindeer.
Guy Smith comes from a mixed family farm on the north-east Essex coast, which is officially recognised as the driest farm in the UK. He is also vice-president of the NFU
In contrast, the current Defra secretary, Liz Truss, seems more like the Christmas fairy than the ghost of Christmas past with her apparent determination to get BPS payments out as soon as possible.
Hopefully she recognises that these payments will keep many farm businesses afloat. It was also reassuring to hear Mark Grimshaw, chief executive of the RPA, say he recognised that BPS payments were important to the wider rural economy as the money didn’t hang around in farm bank accounts. Rather, it was immediately spent on goods and services and this, in turn, kept other rural businesses going. The estimation was that for every pound sent out as BPS payments there was a multiplier of four pounds into the wider economy.
So seeing as this is my last column before Christmas, I will wish you early season’s greetings along with best wishes when it comes to receiving your BPS money early rather than late.
And seeing as I’m in a premature Christmas mood, I will leave you with a little (Kipling-inspired) poem to assist the run in to the festive period.
If you can keep your BPS payments when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on the EU.
If you can trust Defra when all men doubt them,
But make allowance for their doubting too.
If you sell to supermarkets but not make supermarkets your master,
If you can make a profit but not make profit your aim.
If you can meet with triumph or disaster,
And treat those two imposters just the same.
If you can make one heap of all your harvest
While markets pay you below its production cost,
And lose but get the seed drill out again
And never breathe a word about your loss.
If you can talk with auctioneers and keep your virtue,
Or walk with land agents – but never lose your common sense,
If neither sheep scab or yellow rust can hurt you
And if you can keep your stock inside one fence.
If you can fill every minute in your field
With sixty seconds worth of distance run.
Yours is the earth and the soil within it
And what is more – you’ll be a farmer my son!