Farmer Focus: Environmental scheme management key on 2010, says Jim Alston

2009 was the year of the unexpected. Wheat produced yields that could not have been predicted from how it looked in January and sugar beet, which looked so ordinary in the summer, went on to produce a record crop.

Malting barley quality was so uniformly good no load was questioned while, contrarily, potatoes managed a good crop but with a whole new set of problems.

Ironically, none of that will help 2010 much. A bit like a Toyota Prius parked in a Heathrow car park, the overall result is not helpful to what may follow. A similar year to last will add to an already perceived food surplus as opposed to the shortage predicted not so long ago. There will probably be a change of government and in all likelihood a change in how agriculture is managed as think tanks and quangoes set about defending their pensions.

I was pleased to read that Natural England has its game plan under way, part of which (I quote from the latest set of accounts) “established an integrated horizon-scanning initiative with DEFRA’s Delivery Network, and produced the first synthesis report which combines futures findings from horizon-scanning and scenarios”.

Whether you understand that it seems likely that management of the agriculture shopfloor will become ever more intrusive, making it important to get on board with the Campaign for the Farmed Environment to avoid the worst excesses of Government control.

My ELS comes up for renewal this year, my ESA next and my CSS the year after but how I should manage that is still a mystery to me. I feel that 2010 will be a crunch year for agriculture both politically and economically, how the crop is sold will be more important than how it is grown, and maintaining an income from environmental schemes will take up a good deal of time.

More columns from other Farmer Focus writers

More columns from Jim Alston

Need a contractor?

Find one now