Farmer Focus: Far from a dull start to 2009 for Will Howe

I was expecting an exciting and turbulent 2009, but we really have got off to a flying start.

At the Oxford Farming Conference, Hilary Benn showed a change of heart over the importance of production. The pound and the euro are neck and neck – so any skiing holiday is more likely to be in the Cairngorms than the Alps. And we then get a monumental decision from Brussels with far-reaching consequences for the industry.

My first concern is entirely selfish. How can I farm without Atlantis? I acknowledge the chemical companies are working hard on an alternative, but it will be remarkable if we see an adequate replacement before 2018.

Fungicides are less of an issue. That’s because by the withdrawal date, they will, hopefully, have been overtaken by newer chemistry.

As we all know, except for the honourable exception of some Dubai sheikhs, land is a finite resource. So how can we accept these EU conditions when wheat yields could drop 25%, yet current world stocks are a meagre 11 weeks’ worth? It would take only a couple of poor harvests in major wheat-producing areas to leave us all in a real mess.

It also appears that the last bastion of reason and decency has finally fallen to the hordes. While watching the BBC breakfast news in keen anticipation of what the EU ruling involved, I was, sadly, greeted by headlines of a ballroom dancing world tour involving a load of Z list celebrities. I fear people’s priorities are a little misguided.

On the farm, grain is being loaded out to make way for incoming fertiliser. Some of the backward rape is in need of a dose of a urea/sulphur blend shortly – just enough, no doubt, to perk it up to retain the pigeons’ interest.


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