Farmer Focus: Blunt BPS cap would penalise tenant farmers

I have been incredibly fortunate and privileged within the last month to have attended one of the Windsor Leadership Trust programmes, a thought-provoking and challenging few days delivered within the confines of Windsor Castle. 

This involved me joining a diverse cohort from many other sectors, ranging from vicars to those from the Armed Forces. The objective was to take us out of our comfort zone and enable us to better face the future. 

One of the most significant learnings for me was that all of the issues that we face in farming can be replicated by those in other sectors, as such it was fascinating to discover how others had handled various situations. 

See also: Gove plans to redirect £150m BPS savings to environment

I am most appreciative of The Farmers Club Charitable Trust and the Perry Foundation for sponsoring my place on this prestigious programme. 

Blunt mechanism

No doubt I can draw on some of my experience to enable me to respond to the latest Defra Command Future of Farming consultation paper, please make sure that you do as well. 

At this stage, I haven’t had the opportunity to read the paper in detail but it would appear that one of the fundamental thoughts is to impose some form of additional cap on direct payments in the transition phase between the present system and who knows what. 

As you can imagine I have quite an issue with this stupid and blunt mechanism for satisfying some misguided perception that large landowners receive massive payments for doing nothing.

After all, there are very many large recipients of payments who are tenants and I know that land, no matter who farms it, comes at a cost. 

It almost seems as though the target is some kind of communist state owning all of the land to make free and available to all.  Get real Mr Gove. 

Soil erosion        

Out on the farm, conditions did dry enough in late February to allow some of the lightest land to be prepared for sowing of sugar beet.

This included sowing of some shelter barley, that is barley seed planted a couple of weeks ahead of the beet to ensure that the beet seedlings have a nurse crop when and if the sandy soils become dry enough to blow in the spring winds.

It also serves to ensure that our most valuable resource doesn’t end up in the next county. Who knows, maybe in the future we will be able to claim a payment for this?

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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