Farmer Focus Arable: Richard Cobbald welcomes the set-aside decision

I was pleased to hear that the 5% set-aside idea has finally been chucked out; but there’s still a huge amount of work to be done by the likes of NFU and LEAF to convince farmers to change from where they are now.

From my office window I see miles of grass margins and managed hedges, plus more than 100 acres of game cover and a similar area of woodland. What more should/can we do here?

Claims that the dramatic drop in bird numbers since set-aside was abolished seem a bit odd in the east. That’s because the huge areas of supposedly naturally regenerated or grassed land were mostly in industrial rape, I have yet to get a response from anyone on this subject whenever I bring it up.

Mind you any schemes will look a lot more inviting should current commodity prices continue.

We should have sold more produce earlier in the year when wheat was £130/t and rape in the £270s. We all hoped we could talk the game up with comments like “what if we have a drought?”

Sadly a combination of demand, currency and the US suddenly finding a huge chunk of land cropped that they thought wasn’t, has scuppered our higher price dreams, with nothing suggesting a rally.

The recent wetter spells gave me the chance to look through and correct (many times) our maps that the RPA so kindly sent just before our busiest time of year.

All I can think is that they must have had access to a brilliant weather forecast and realised we would have time on our hands while the oilseed rape sat sodden in the fields.

We did manage to get a small amount cut early which yielded 4.1t/ha, so things look reasonably good for when we really do get on.

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