Farmer Focus: Evolution, not revolution, needed for farm payments

Following on from recent announcements, the direction is clear: increase our productivity, improve our environment, provide cheap exceptional quality food and, oh, don’t forget to make a profit while you are at it.  

Is this as clear as the mud that we are all currently wading through, or is it all quite simple? 

If we follow the AHDB revolutionary lead in productivity, we will use the future payment system to enhance the environment, continue to produce first-rate food for one of the most demanding markets in the world and then the profit will follow. 

See also: Greening rules updated – what farmers need to know

Job done, what next? Sit back and let robots do all of the work. Well of course not; if life was so easy, it wouldn’t be so much fun.

Who gains?

First, have we not all being trying to achieve these goals all of our working lives? More from less in my mind covers the productivity aspect. No doubt technology can help in some ways, but who will really gain? Will we end up struggling to see a return on our investment in very expensive tools?  

Second, what does Mr Gove think that we have been attempting to do for the past 40 years? I would suggest that the common agricultural policy, environmental schemes and greening have been moving us in the right direction with regards to the environment.

Is the secretary of state merely latching onto all of our hard work for his own political gain – does he have anything new, a radical solution, or just a few sound bites to satisfy the green lobby and the readers of certain newspapers?

I’m sure that this will help him with his political aspirations, but remember we will still be here trying to feed the nation and farm the land long after he has gone.

Yes, we must go further, there is no doubt about that, but we need evolution not revolution, a long-term policy; indeed, even one for 25 years would help. 

Out on the farm here at Euston, I think the mud that I mentioned at the beginning sums it up. It’s been a bit wet, even here.

That being said, the sugar beet has been harvested and performed very well on the late harvested light sand land, and early carrots, on similar soils, went in well and will soon be through.      


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.