28 December 2001

In their own words, a tough year

Week in, week out, our team of farmer focus writers

provides a telling commentary on the world of arable farming.

Paste them together and their highlights paint a powerful

picture of the year just gone. Compiled by Andrew Swallow

Wild weather

"Frosty weather in January allowed us, at last, to get on with some fieldwork." Tim Piper, Feb 2

"A long list of crop recommendations sits on my desk waiting to be actioned… Rain has kept us off the land for three weeks."

Stewart Hayllor, Feb 16

"Ive no intention of starring in this springs hit film, "Honey, Ive sunk the tractor."

Steve Bumstead, Mar 16

"The mother of all wet autumns seems to have been followed by the father of all wet springs."

Andrew Kerr, Apr 20

"If we were farming in the US we would probably get bad weather handouts." Jim Bullock, May 11

"We have had near perfect weather with adequate rain and plenty of sunshine."

Stewart Hayllor, July 13

"The contrast between drilling wheat this autumn and last could hardly be greater."

Jim Bullock, Sept 28

"Indian summer? I dont think so!"

Andrew Kerr, Oct 5

Agronomy

"An extra field of winter beans has been sown where lupins failed…" Stewart Hayllor, Jan 26

"Nitrogen reserves have been severely depleted by excessive rain and appear to be 30% lower than normal." Tim Piper, Mar 2

"We are now on plan C, plans A and B having failed miserably. Plan D – thats D for desperation – will swing into action mid-April."

Steve Bumstead, Apr 6

"Maris Otter barley is in ear and showing signs of sulphur deficiency." Andrew Keeler, June 1

"If the chemical had been in 10 or 20ha containers the job would have been done before lunch – Pesticide Stewardship Committee please take note."

Peter Hogg, June 15

"I will not pursue the fad for early drilling…a technique devised either by chemical companies or the Monster Raving Looney Party."

Andrew Kerr, June 22

"Winter wheats are past flowering and as clean as I have seen in years… The dilemma now is to ear-wash or not."

Patrick Godwin, June 29

"I like the look of SAC figures on winter oats… So porridge for breakfast everyone please!"

Ron Duncan, Sept 14

Marketing

"Hands up all those who voted to retain the British Potato Council? Ive yet to meet one progressive grower who did."

Ian Crawford, Mar 16

"We will have a more diverse business with more premium markets once part of the farms organic conversion is complete."

Patrick Godwin, May 4

"I always knew last years 500t of milling wheat we kept would come in handy for a bit of blending."

Mark Ireland, Sept 14

"I wash my hands of the BPC. I am flabbergasted that its levy rates are to increase."

Ian Crawford, Oct 26

Assurance

"In Canada identity preserved crops are the norm. Those reluctant to join assurance schemes take note."

Jim Bullock, Mar 16

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Continued from page 38

"I was pleased to receive £2/t more than I would without ACCS – whether that is a premium depends on the way you look at it." Paul Warburton, May 25

"Well done FABBL for coming into the ring on crop assurance. Funny how ACCS can now reduce their subscription fee isnt it?"

Ian Crawford, July 6

Harvest

"Harvest 2001, the realisation of a seasons dreams for some but the beginning of a nightmare for most of us." Andrew Kerr, Aug 10

"Its called sods law. As soon as the combine gets to the gate we get 30mm of rain."

John Jeffrey, Aug 31

"Frustration is the most polite word to describe our predicament."

Ron Duncan, Sept 14

"We have not combined for 10 days. What happened to the glorious sunny harvests of yesteryear?" John Jeffrey, Sept 28

"The dual wheels are back on the combine, a repeat of last year."

Ian Crawford, Sept 28

"A 12-day spell of fantastic weather made combining beans and lupins a real pleasure, despite some average crops." John Best, Oct 5

"It is a sign of the times when it is the bank manager who chooses the combine, not the farmer."

John Jeffrey, Oct 26

"I can remember buying dust masks and goggles for the potato pickers – how the seasons have changed…We are off, emigrating to Western Australia."

Ian Crawford, Oct 26

Foot-and-mouth

"The shallowness of concern, apathy and contempt shown by labour MPs to the foot-and-mouth outbreak is staggering… At one point there were just 13 Labour backbenchers, 3% of the party, in the House of Commons debate…" Kevin Littleboy, Mar 9

"Foot-and-mouth disease makes it feel like the farm is under siege. The gates are locked and the disinfectant mats out."

Andrew Keeler, Mar 9

"Horrendous stories of slaughtered stock left on farms for more than a week before disposal undermine all confidence in Nick Browns claims to have the outbreak under control." Stewart Hayllor, Mar 23

"We all know someone directly affected by this crisis and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this time." Ron Duncan, Mar 30

"Blair fiddles while farming burns – the headlines say it all."

Paul Warburton, Mar 30

"Tony Blair has taken charge – he should have done that months ago."

Steve Bumstead, Apr 6

"The ministry men arrived a fortnight ago and shot all the grazing sheep… The saddest day this farm has ever experienced."

Ian Crawford, Apr 13

"The MAFF slaughter machine drives on, now edging up to 3.5m animals massacred. Foot-and-mouth still holds a firm grip, election or not." Patrick Godwin, June 1

Election/politics

"I promise to give the government as much support in the election as they have given me as an arable farmer." Steve Bumstead, May 4

"The highlight so far is the new way to woo voters – punch them!"

Kevin Littleboy, June 1

"I will vote for the candidate promising a warm summer, kind autumn, and a huge rise in the strength of the k."

Patrick Godwin, June 1

"No doubt every other newspaper on your doormat this morning will be covered with the cheesy grin of Mr Blair." John Jeffrey, June 8

"Im told that DEFRA is Welsh for wake up – is the government trying to tell us something?"

Patrick Godwin, June 29

"Someone in Lord Haskins position has a clear interest in getting low farm gate prices – it is like putting the fox in charge of the hen house." Kevin Littleboy, Aug 24

"What do you call a Euro MP with half a brain? Talented!"

Stewart Hayllor, Nov 2

Sporting

"It cannot be right that three pheasant drives between Christmas and New Year were ruined by a farmer combining his beans."

Kevin Littleboy, Jan 12

"How can England seriously claim to be a top international cricket team when they get bowled out for 86?" John Jeffrey, July 6

"It is the glorious 12th, but there is nothing glorious about it, just another grey day in a long line of grey days." Ron Duncan, Aug 17

"Several of Englands cricketers will be discarded after this Ashes series, as will some cereal varieties that have failed to impress."

Ian Pigott, Aug 31

"I like to think of our crops like football teams… This season ours deserve relegation to the Vauxhall Conference." Andrew Kerr, Sept 5

Conservation

"The buzzword here in Australia is carbon credits… Polluters buy or lease large areas of trees to cancel out their emissions."

Ian Crawford, Jan 19

"The abrupt ending of the Nitrogen Sensitive Area scheme can only be viewed as an environmental disaster." Mark Ireland, Mar 2

"Given the publics concern about the loss of farmland birds perhaps spring footpath closures should be an annual event."

Jim Bullock, Mar 16

"Our unsprayed headlands are a riot of red poppies, yellow corn marigolds and blue cornflowers."

Ron Duncan, Aug 17

Kevin Littleboy North Yorks

John Jeffrey The Borders

Ron Duncan Morayshire

Ian Pigott Herts

Stewart Hayllor Devon

Tim Piper Kent

Steve Bumstead Beds

Andrew Keeler Norfolk

Peter Hogg Northumberland

Andrew Kerr Essex

Patrick Godwin West Sussex

Ian Crawford Cheshire

Jim Bullock Worcs

Paul Warburton Oxon

Mark Ireland Lincs

John Best N Ireland