Farmer Focus Arable: Getting funds to researchers is inefficient says Jim Alston

I came across this in the latest NFU Technically Speaking newsletter: “A solution has now been found to enable the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the AHDB (Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) to work together to lever more money for agricultural research for industry under the new Innovation Platform for Sustainable Agri-Food.

It added that it will be funded in partnership between TSB, DEFRA, BBSRC, AHDB and others.

This tells us more about how money disappears than how it is made available for agricultural research. If you wanted a system to get cash from the tax and levy payer to a researcher, this would not be considered an efficient method.

With so many hurdles to cross and so many fingers in the pie, it is unlikely any serious research to improve production and competitive efficiency on UK farms will be funded this way.

The fact that food production is third on the list of DEFRA’s objectives behind “the environment” and (I like this) “resource efficient economy”, says much about the government objective of improving food security.

The current state of arable production has been demonstrated all too clearly in our area.

Birds Eye closed its frozen pea operation in Lowestoft in January, leaving 18,000 acres without a single profitable alternative to turn to.

This is a serious blow to the region and emphasises the need for development of profitable spring break crops that should fit in with DEFRA’s objectives.

Farming-wise, we have done nothing apart from look at the last field of sugar beet that is still in the ground and build a rabbit fence.

Meanwhile, The Sunday Times is advising its readers with a spare £100,000 to purchase grassland as at £50-100/acre (£125-250/ha), it represents good value as the price of meat is going to go up.

Despite their loose grip of the facts, I hope they are right. Now, where did I leave that spare £100,000?

• More columns from Jim Alston

• More columns from other Arable Farmer Focus writers

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