FARMER FOCUS: Beet price agreement another fudge

Well wouldn’t you know it, after months of negotiation the good old fashioned farming fudge of splitting the difference ended up settling the 2014/15 sugar beet price.

The original formula indicated £27.67/t, the smart guys in the NFU economics department reckoned that we needed just over £35/t, so by my reckoning the agreed £31.67 is bang in the middle.

No matter how it was achieved, the significant year-on-year price increase is most gratefully received. Knowing that it has taken this long to sort the price, I suggest they start now for the 2015/16 crop.

Here at Euston, we are still hoping, if not praying, for a very open autumn to boost the sugar content and bulk up the roots on this year’s beet crop. September gave us a useful helping hand towards achieving a moderate crop, as well as allowing us to establish winter cereals into excellent conditions.

Those pesky, exceptionally rare great crested newts are making my head ache again. This time it’s a refusal of the licence application to move my smooth-coated little pals to pastures new.

Once again, another winter will have to pass without the new reservoir to store all of that valuable winter water so badly needed on this dry land. What is the reason for the refusal? you might ask. Not only do we have to build one new pond to replace the one to be swallowed up by the reservoir, we are expected to build two new ponds, set 10ha of new habitat aside and go 60 days clear after catching the last slithery amphibian before we can be sure that the site is clear.

I am still not too sure why the 10ha of new water won’t be any good for them and why they won’t enjoy basking on the warm sunny south-facing slopes of the new structure, but why should I? After all, we have only managed to look after them for many years.

So, two years and many thousands of pounds later, I am starting to feel as though those in Europe who designated the protected status of my little mates just might have me beat, or maybe that’s what I want them to think.

Andrew Blenkiron manages the 4,400ha Euston Estate, south of Thetford. Principal farm enterprises are combinable and root crops, including sugar beet. In addition the estate supports let land, sheep, outdoor pigs, poultry, suckler cows, horses and stewardship

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