FARMER FOCUS: Code of conduct needed for land rentals

Our weather enforced hibernation has come to a sudden end. No rain, an easterly breeze, and almost continuous sunshine have meant we are back in the fields again. Our stony ground must always be rolled and I covered the winter barley yesterday.

The crop is reasonable apart from a few small waterlogged areas. First fertiliser (13-0-27-13 NPKS) will have been applied by the time you read this. Neill is ploughing maize stubbles and last year’s potato beds in preparation for spring wheat to replace the planned winter varieties.

Land rental prices have gone through the roof over here. Some crazy prices are being quoted – in excess of £618/ha for good grassland – and are impossible to justify. It is time to draw up a code of conduct for land rentals, as there seems to be one for everything else.

For cereals, no more than 40% of the value of a tonne wheat sold forward for November of the year in question sounds about right for top potential land, with a sliding scale for lower grades. Other farming enterprises could base their rental on a similar easily established commodity baseline. In these volatile times it is unfair that the risk-taker should take the gamble with this most basic of raw material, while landlords are guaranteed their lifestyle bonus irrespective of their tenant’s bottom line.

Over here most tenanted land is in poor fertility, leading to low productivity. EU taxpayers money is being handed out to non-farming entitlement holders without regard as to how they care for the top 20cm of soil. The word immoral comes to mind. The bureaucrats seem to be able to legislate for everything else. Why not good land husbandry practice?

Mistake of the month: had a wee punt on Ireland for the Six Nations. Apparently there is a spare kidney available for immediate transplant (Declan Kidney is the Irish coach) Any takers?

Allan Chambers farms 270ha of medium stony loam at Tullynaskeagh Farm, Tullynaskeagh, Co Down, with brother David growing cereals, grass for haylage and maize

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