Farmer Focus: David Shepherdson March column

I don’t want to upset anyone at the Rural Payments Agency, but a quick look at its website tells me that once again we have made it into the final 15% of claimants awaiting payment.

I can only assume that’s because our claim forms appear so dull that they just get put into a dusty cupboard.

Understandably, a farm that hasn’t changed in size or swapped fields in more than 10 years must seem unchallenging to your average RPA whiz-kid.

So I suggest payments be delegated to local councils. They are most efficient at sending every household in the country its council tax bill on the same day, within two weeks of calculating the final figure – and another letter two weeks later telling you that you haven’t paid.

Tipple barley went in to an excellent seed-bed. Hopefully it will warm up a bit so it’s out fast and growing away from those troublesome crows.

I’ve also been round with the first dose of nitrogen/sulphur giving the rape 90kg/ha N and 17kg/ha S and the wheat and barley a sniff at 55kg/ha N and 11kg/ha S.

Riding in the sprayer is the best way to get a look at the fields’ wildlife. There doesn’t seem to be one without hares this spring I’ve never seen so many.

Lapwings also do well here, nesting and thriving in our spring barley – we had seven nests in our 7.5ha (18-acre) field last year. The adults nest on the bare soil before the crop emerges, and their brood will be up and running before the crop gets too tall for them.

Maybe with everyone pushing for more winter-cropping on their farms, offering spring-cropping as an ELS option would encourage more people to keep some in their rotations – ours certainly supports more wildlife than any bare set-aside I’ve seen.

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