Farmer Focus : Mark Ireland 11/02/05

“WHAT ARE you doing today?” asked my son Sandy as I left the house last week better dressed than I usually am for a normal day”s work.

“I’m going to learn about soils,” I said. He replied: “Don’t you know about them already?”

I have the greatest respect for our tutor, Jim Lewis, whose presentation was second to none, but I certainly felt at the end of the day that Sandy was right.

The process of putting together a soil management plan is merely going to add bureaucracy and is, in effect, a licence to farm.

I accept there are parts of the country with much higher rainfall than ours or slopes far steeper than anything we are used to, where soil management is paramount.

If you think about the regulations too much you can really get yourself wound up. But in our case I feel things are going to be much the same as before, but with reams of paperwork with boxes ticked.

A glance through the half-year budget shows our actual figures for most items are not too far amiss.

The glaring exception is gas oil, which is 31% over budget due to increased use and price.

The consultation into the use of rebated gas oils is worrying. Our industry uses 2000m litres a year, for which the rebate is worth £814m. This amounts to half the value of our single farm payments.

Without doubt, there is a small minority of users who abuse the entitlement. But a limitation on distance travelled using red diesel could spell the end of the trend to farm amalgamations.

Beet harvest and delivery continues to drag on. At the start of February we had 34ha (85 acres) left to lift and 33ha (81 acres) in clamp.