BAROMETERS DIVIDED OVER GREENING SCHEMES
The government’s agri-environment schemes attract favour and indifference in nearly equal measure, with the ELS being marginally more attractive than the HLS.
“We’ve got to get modulation back somehow,” says Richard Payne. “This is a beneficial way of going about it.”
Jim Goddard is applying for the ELS “to play the game”. But Jamie Rogers views it is as “more creeping bureaucracy with potentially serious implications for future flexibility on land use”.
Andrew Cooke claims the ELS is “a cheap way to sell your farm to DEFRA” and the HLS is “the same but worse.”
Charlie Edgley regards the HLS as “too much hassle for the amount of money”.
“The ELS is fine but the HLS goes too far,” says Keith Snowball. “What will happen to all these schemes when one day food is needed again? All these schemes are fine on marginal land.”
Kevin Littleboy is more damning of those behind them. “I’d comment [on the ELS] if they could find my farm and maps. Their inefficiency is intolerable.” He has not even bothered to look at the HLS.
CLIMATE CHANGE SPLIT
The prospect of climate change leaves our barometer farmers split almost 50:50 between those concerned and those unworried.
“Rainfall patterns are having a real effect on spring-sown crops,” notes Richard Payne.
Fewer rainy days, but with more falling per rainy day, can make cultivations difficult, adds David Pettitt.
Ian Brown, well briefed through EA involvement, says climate change will be a big issue.
But Brian Shaw and Robert Stevenson responded identically: “I can’t worry about everything.”
“I will be in my box before it affects me personally,” adds Andrew Kerr. “But it could mean growing new crops in future.”
Les Anderson believes Mediterranean weather in Scotland would be an improvement.
“Dorset like the Med?” says Jim Goddard. “Bring it on!”
BIOFUELS ON THE HORIZON
Most respondents expect biofuel crops to become a significant feature of UK farming within the next five years. Nearly 40% are convinced that they will be, with most of the rest hoping they will.
“It’s shameful that the government won’t act now,” says Jamie Rogers.
Richard Payne wants the UK’s biofuel industry to receive the same tax breaks as the rest of the EU, and Charlie Edgley says it is logical for farmers to provide a source of renewable energy.
“It might make UK farmers popular again as long as the anti-OSR brigade don’t get their way,” says Keith Snowball.
But Andrew Cooke is more sceptical. “There’s no future in biofuel if they only want to pay commodity prices.”
GM CROPS CAUTION
Only five of our barometer farms would definitely not grow GM crops were they permitted.
“I’m getting past the desire to have a fight with protesters,” says Brian Shaw.
But there remain plenty of reservations. Indeed half responded with a “maybe”.
“I’m still not convinced on cross pollination with weeds, etc,” says Les Anderson.
James Porter is keen to grow GM crops – particularly if they help cut pesticide use. But Robert Ramsay says he would do so only if market-led.