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Peter Hogg

19 July 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

TODAY was supposed to be a good day, you see, I wasnt going to do any real work at all.

Christine had decided that the garden was looking a bit scruffy, so while she was at work I was going to surprise her by giving it a quick go over.

When the lawn-mower starter motor packed up I should have just gone back to bed. But instead I got out a set of spanners. I soon had the starter in bits and discovered that the two magnets had become detached from the casing. While pondering what to do about that I happened to notice that our oilseed rape in the distance appeared to be setting a second flush of flowers. So I jumped in the Land Rover and drove off to the field only to discover that these new yellow flowers were in fact stupid thistles.

Then returning home I realised that the cattle were missing from their field. It did not take long to find them, as they were in the barley field across the road, or at least half of them were; the other half were in the garden.

After getting things sorted out I went back to the starter motor and bonded the magnets back in place with super glue, reassembled the lawn mower, and then wished I had paid more attention during physics lectures at school. I must have put the magnets in the wrong way round – the starter motor was now spinning backwards. Does anyone know how to dissolve super glue?

The lawn is still uncut and I have spent the past two hours trying to resurrect trampled delphiniums from among the cowpats. Now, as I write this, I am gazing out of the window. I have just noticed a neighbouring farmer slow down as he passes our oilseed rape field. Flocks of rooks and pigeons are descending on the trampled barley and is that Christines car I can hear turning into the drive? Time to hide! &#42

Thistles in the oilseed rape, rooks in the barley, and cows in the delphiniums, not Peter Hoggs best day!

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Peter Hogg

21 June 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

RECENTLY I took the old Alfa out for its first summer outing. Hood down, accelerator nailed to the floor, I was promptly overtaken by a 4×4 anti-Taliban-type combat vehicle which seems to be compulsory for every young mother on the school run these days. Arriving home my mood got no better as I discovered that our roadside ditch is the perfect size to accommodate one of our silage trailers!

When someone offered to buy our old Ford TW10 the other day I rushed off to see what the latest tractors had to offer. An enthusiastic salesman showed me a gleaming machine, which he described as simple to drive.

Was that for simple drivers, I wondered? The gearbox was of four speeds selected by nudging a joystick forward or backwards. By pressing the toggle on the top of the joy stick up to five times you could also select five different ranges in each gear: crawl, slow, medium, fast and auto. A high and low torque button doubled up the gear selection.

Are you still with me? When switched to field operation mode the four-wheel-drive and diff-locks operate automatically and disengage when turning on the headland. For wet headlands this function can be manually over-ridden by pressing the green button on the left, pressing the red button returns it to normal service. In Auto mode the satellite navigation system keeps the tractor in a straight line, automatically slowing the engine to half speed when approaching the headland, a red traffic light or when the telephone rings. If the tractor carries straight on at the headland at full speed a fault has occurred and the control unit needs reprogramming, otherwise it will self-destruct in five seconds. Refer to operators manual, pages 42-97. I think we will just keep our TW10.

Sean Rickard states we have too many farmers producing too much food. Really? With millions of people in the world hungry and Britain importing one quarter of its needs? Another strange fellow. &#42

Time to replace the TW10? Maybe not, says Peter Hogg having had a look at the latest hardware.

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Peter Hogg

24 May 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

GOVERNMENT has now lost all credibility with the agricultural industry. Its failure to draw down the latest tranche of agrimoney is scandalous and beggars belief.

Not only is this money a loss to agriculture but the EU contribution is a loss to the country. No other nation in the EU seems to show such a cavalier disregard for their citizens as our government does. They have as good as said that 60,000 jobs lost, an average income of £1.20/hour for the farmers that remain, and a food bill deficit on our balance of payments increasing by over £1bn to a record of £7.5bn are all of little consequence.

What is it with this government that has set it on a course to not only destroy our food production capability but to openly discriminate against its citizens too? A similar story applies to its attitude towards the manufacturing industry, with an overall balance of trade deficit at a record £3bn/month. I ask myself is there any difference between President Blair and President Mugabe?

Maybe it is time for us to destroy our own crops and livestock and go and get a job in the local DIY store.

Being a farmer I am of course immensely cash poor. But fortunately Christine, my wife, works at an estate agents and is rich enough to take the two of us on holiday to the Canaries to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary. I spent the few days before departure making sure that all crop treatments were up to date. Oats had 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of nitrogen and the most forward wheats have had a half dose of Sphere (trifloxystrobin + cyproconazole). The other half will hopefully go on at ear emergence and nitrogen has been topped up. Potatoes had a just pre-em herbicide.

Will things be better politically when I get back? Maybe not. Will I be following my own advice to destroy our crops? Probably not. Will I be going back to the Canaries in another 27 years? Definitely not. &#42

Rip it up and start again – in a DIY store, suggests Peter Hogg from Northumberland.

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Peter Hogg

29 March 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

SO there we have it; because I am on the NFU council I am a geriatric, superannuated, self-opinionated sort of person – or words to that effect.

That is according to Oliver Walston. Strange fellow. I wonder, could his pointless TV programmes have had any bearing on the governments decision not to draw down the £50m of arable aid?

When people are distressed they sometimes have a tendency to lash out. Unfortunately, that may hurt the very people who are trying to help the most. Those who think a new arable organisation will be of some use should arrange a visit to the crops department at NFU HQ where they will see the dedicated, never ending and thankless work put in by staff and unpaid committee members on behalf of all growers.

It is a shame the NFUs reaction to the Curry report was given such negative publicity because there is a huge amount in there that the NFU agrees with. However, the report opens by saying that British agriculture is a failure. I disagree, 20m tonnes of food worth £6.6 billion to the British economy at farm-gate values and far more by the time it reaches the shops, over half a million jobs, and an improving environment are all supported by subsidies that amount to 0.1% of GDP. That is not a failure. It is a resounding success. It is time we started telling that to the press and our politicians.

Following a very wet winter, again, our sprayer is still in the back of the shed. But we have managed to get 50kg/ha (40units/acre) of nitrogen on to the oilseed rape and the winter barley. The wheat has had nothing but is mostly looking okay.

Following a certain amount of success with minimum tillage we once again established a field of oilseed rape by this method. However, this year it looks waterlogged and sick, a bit like I do after a session on Newcastles Quayside. Maybe a bit of autumn N would have helped. &#42

Pay a visit to the crops department of the NFU before calling for an Arable Association, says Northumberland grower Peter Hogg.

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Peter Hogg

1 March 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

HARD luck to the tally-ho brigade in Scotland, but dont feel too hard about it, after all, it is only a matter of time before Tony and his cronies have another bash at banning hunting south of the border.

I despair at the direction the hunting debate has gone. First, it isnt illegal in Scotland and wont be in England and Wales to kill as many foxes as you like by any means other than using dogs. You can dig them out and beat them to death with a fence post or take pot shots at them with any gun; similarly with deer control – only you would need to be very fast with a fence post!

The next logical step by the legislators would be to give foxes protected status. But actually they wont. The RSPCA, in conjunction with other conservation agencies, already has its own marksmen creeping around blasting away at foxes and deer. They dont tell anyone that when rattling collection tins in Kensington. It is all done in the name of conservation and maintaining a healthy balance in the wild. Wasnt that what the hunt did?

Also, now there is no money to be made out of keeping sheep, fox control becomes pointless for farmers. The result will be fox populations rising. The weak, mangy, diseased foxes that the hunt used to catch will survive on nests of skylarks and curlews – the very ground nesting birds we are supposed to nurture.

English Nature will then want foxes controlled and ask for grant aid to take the necessary action. Fox population counts will be needed to justify that, paying people with clipboards to do surveys. Then, local authority employed marksmen will ask for a derogation to use dogs to flush foxes out.

You guessed it, we are back to hunting with dogs, only now the stupid people who asked their politicians to ban it are now paying for it through their taxes. &#42

Peter Hogg has a strange feeling of despair about the hunting debate. He can see things going full circle, only the people calling for a ban will end up paying for fox control in their taxes.

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Peter Hogg

1 February 2002

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a

few potatoes

A GOOD farmer always used to be defined as "someone who is outstanding in his field". Today, the definition should be "someone who is outstanding at filling in forms".

I have just been browsing through a paper titled A New Framework for Training, Certification and Continuing Professional Development within the Plant Protection Sector. This unnecessary bit of gobbledegook has been forced upon the industry by Michael Meacher and his clueless bunch of advisors by threatening us with a £120m pesticides tax. The environmental and food safety improvement of this will be nil.

Government has launched a consultation on the Nitrate Vulnerable Zones and are kind enough to ask: "Do you want 100% or just 80% of the land area to be included?" Well a fat lot of good either of those choices are – they will both contain all of the UKs arable land.

The EU rules necessitating this NVZ action, which set a 50mg/litre of nitrate limit for drinking water, were created by clueless "Euroticians" – EU Politicians. The limit was set without any scientific evidence why this level shouldnt be exceeded. Indeed, it is below that of many natural waters. It now means our water companies are being forced to spend £27bn over the next 20 years to remove nitrates.

Such a huge amount of money invested elsewhere could save more lives than were lost in the dreadful events of Sep 11. Our government should take legal action against those responsible for this criminally wasteful nitrate directive and demand they receive a punishment similar to that of Al Queda prisoners.

The old machinery is busy getting a winter service and no, Im not talking about Christine. With a bit of luck we will have at least a few hours of work without breakdowns from each item. We will need it because with the small amount of milling wheat from last harvest gone all we have left to sell until next harvest is 30t of potatoes. It is going to be a lean year. &#42

Peter Hogg would like to take his chainsaw to the Euroticians responsible for nitrate directives.

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Peter Hogg

30 November 2001

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat,

barley and oilseed rape,

plus a few potatoes

A FEW years ago the "Farmers Goods" class of road tax on wagons was abolished and farmers sold their wagons. Then new regulations on livestock trailers came in and the local authorities blitzed livestock marts dishing out prosecutions.

About the same time mind-boggling red tape started strangling local abattoirs, forcing them to close and ministry vets blind obedience to rules seemed to be clouding their judgement, leading them to prosecute farmers for taking lame animals to slaughter.

The result is that our ability to take sick animals to local abattoirs, where qualified and experienced meat handlers could tell whether an animal was simply a bit off colour or suffering from something more serious, has been systematically and methodically destroyed.

If you wanted to write a book about enemy agents infiltrating government to destroy our agricultural industry you could not have made up such a plot.

Yet the plot thickens.

New right-to-roam legislation and the relaxation of quarantine laws means possibly diseased pets can return from abroad and wander into the middle of a flock of sheep the next day.

Our own armed forces must follow purchasing rules that mean 90% of their food comes from abroad. If it wasnt for all these circumstances the horrific chapter of foot-and-mouth disease might have been avoided.

But the book goes on with directives on employment law, health and safety, veterinary products, on-farm feed mixing, landfill, nitrates, pesticides, sheep dip, water frameworks, pollution prevention, climate change, soil erosion, waste management, etc, etc.

In later chapters, a hunting ban removes a means of getting rid of fallen stock, followed up with a ban on farmers burying animals that used to go to the hounds.

By now the readers of the book could be forgiven for thinking the plot is becoming far-fetched, even ridiculous. The tragedy is that this is no work of fiction, it is all true.

I will copy this column to various big names within DEFRA. I shall keep you informed of the replies. &#42

Have you read the book about enemy agents infiltrating government to destroy UK agriculture? asks Peter Hogg.

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Peter Hogg

2 November 2001

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a few

potatoes

THERE we were, chasing sheep around, baling silage, spraying, sowing wheat and harvesting potatoes, all on the same day.

Such a work commitment is becoming bad for my image. Im much better known for posing outside the wine bars in Jesmond with my old Alfa Romeo and gold medallion. Im actually off this weekend to keep an appointment with one of Stewart Hayllors calabrese pickers – see FW Oct 11 and you can guess which one!

We switched from harvesting our early potatoes to maincrop when the price dropped to £50/t. A little under 1ha (2.5 acres) of earlies are still in the ground and with conditions waterlogged prospects of lifting them look poor. At the start of the season we were harvesting 17.3t/ha (7t/acre) at £130/t and we finished at 44.5t/ha (18t/acre) at £50/t. It is a case of less equals more.

Over the last few years, as I have got older, it has been getting smaller, but this year it is the smallest it has ever been. In fact I would say "it" – that is our cereal yield/acre – must be the smallest in the country, especially the last bit.

While Keith set off in the combine to cut the 1.6ha (4 acres) of spring barley left, Sean hitched up a tractor and trailer. But as he set off for the field he met Keith and the combine coming back. His trailer wasnt required because all the grain was in the tank and he could unload straight into the shed.

Now, I wouldnt even dare suggest to Keith that the combine just might not have been set correctly and that perhaps a tiny amount of grain could somehow have gone over the back. So on the pretence of going to see if the straw was fit to bale I went to the field to have a look under the swath. But my suspicions were unfounded, with barely a grain lost – the yield had all gone long before, a legacy of the late April drilling. &#42

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Peter Hogg

5 October 2001

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100-acre)

heavyland farm is in crops,

mainly winter wheat, barley

and oilseed rape, plus a few

potatoes

A NEUTRON, which was split from an atom of anti-matter at the particle accelerator in Geneva has escaped from its electro-magnetically-sealed titanium flask and sunk to the centre of the Earth.

It has set up a chain reaction and will destroy the planet in seven hours and will then go on to devour the entire universe bringing about a state that existed in the cosmos before the "big bang"!

Now, what other pieces of fiction have I come across recently? Farmers claim that yields have fallen to 10t/ha; vaccination will cure foot-and-mouth disease; a certain Mr Haskins has all the answers to farmings problems. I think the first story is the most believable.

Cereal harvest is nearly finished, but a small area of very late sown spring barley looks as if it will not be ready to cut by the end of October. Meanwhile the potatoes have bulked up enormously and Homeguard is now giving 30t/ha (12t/acre). But it is becoming hard to sell them at anything over £100/t.

Autumn drilling of cereals is well under way with the first sown fields emerged. Oats, which we grow for the sheep, have been sprayed with Lexus Class (carfentrazone-ethyl + flupyrsulfuron-methyl), an approach which has been used in the past with good results.

For wheat and barley we have adopted a new policy. Due to the failure to control meadow grass in last years crops there will undoubtedly be a huge reservoir of weed seeds in the soil. Two half doses of herbicide, trifluralin pre-emergence and ipu post-emergence, weather permitting, will be used rather than risk waiting for all the crops to emerge before spraying. Diflufenican will be mixed with the ipu for increased broad-leaved weed control. That way, if the weather breaks, at least we have some weed control in place. Given that we have just had three days of rain, that insurance looks like it could be a sound investment. &#42

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Peter Hogg

17 August 2001

Peter Hogg

Peter Hogg farms in

partnership with his brother

at Causey Park Farm, near

Morpeth, Northumberland.

Half the 450ha (1100 acre)

heavyland farm is in

crops, mainly winter wheat, barley and oilseed rape,

plus a few potatoes

ONCE bitten, twice shy, goes the saying. Well, like many others we were well and truly bitten by last seasons appalling weather. Anxious not to find ourselves in the same predicament this year, steps have been taken to make sure that no opportunities are missed.

I have even bought a new box of welding rods so instant repairs can be made to our old and clapped out equipment.

Actually, that is the only step Ive taken. I know that many foolish people will jump on the bandwagon of early sowing this year. I know it will be done against much advice because of the increased risks of disease and attack by insects, slugs and pigeons. I know that crops that are too forward will be more susceptible to "winter kill" and if it is a mild winter they will probably all go flat before next harvest.

But then if I know all that, whatever possessed me to sow our set-aside with oilseed rape on Aug 1 you may ask? On the same day this years crop was still being swathed. Answers on a postcard… No, on second thoughts, dont answer that please.

Harvest started here on Aug 3 and we managed just 10ha (25 acres) of Intro winter barley before rain stopped play.

The going is extremely slow and tedious due to the enormous amount of meadow grass present – the combine knife wasnt designed to cut hay. Yield is about 3.6t/ha (1.5t/acre). Can I blame the weather or am I doing something wrong?

I remember growing Igri, which despite the weather and despite me not having a clue as to what inputs to give it, always yielded 7.4t/ha (3t/acre). What have the greedy overgrown plant breeders given us over the past 20 years? Not much I would say. And now they have got support from DEFRA in their quest to track down non-payers of royalties. You have been warned. &#42

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