Farmer Focus: Scottish ag policy is a bonanza for consultants

February has brought some respite from the wet spell we have endured, with fields previously too wet to plough now turning over in good condition.

Crops are not quite as green as this time last year due to rainfall and frosts over the past few months.

As fertiliser prices ease and grain prices are on the upwards track again, it may justify a few extra kilos of nitrogen on top of our initial budget.

See also: What is the optimum N rate for sugar beet this season

About the author

Robert Drysdale
Arable Farmer Focus writer
Robert Drysdale is farm manager at Monymusk Estate, growing winter and spring barley, wheat and oilseed rape across 1600ha on 4 contract farming agreements to the south of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire. The farm also has 130 beef cows running on land that is less suitable for crop production with the majority of calves being finished on the farm.
Read more articles by Robert Drysdale

With some sunshine, it feels a bit like spring. However, a look at the calendar is needed for a reality check, as it is unlikely winter is yet passed.

Current news stories of the earthquake in Turkey and extreme rainfall in New Zealand act as a reminder that we are lucky to live in a relatively stable part of the world.

The Scottish government has released more detail on their future agricultural policy. Lengthy online documents have been published, but these are long on words and short on the fine details and indication of payment rates.

At least we now know that the current scheme will be in place for this year and next, with a few minor tweaks in 2025. 

Beyond this time period looks more complicated and the devil will be in the detail of the cost of meeting all requirements versus the payment rates when they are finally set. 

It certainly looks like a bonanza for consultants to interpret the options and guide farmers as to the best opportunities and how to apply and comply. 

One issue that gives me concern is the replacement for the current agri-environment scheme. This does not appear to commence until 2027, but our existing contract ends in 2024. 

This probably means that some of the options that could have been beneficially rolled on will be lost and potentially started again a few years down the line.

Calving is going well, with the number calved running about 15 ahead of the same date last year. 

Lots of twins make calving percentages look good, but have created extra work and put extra strain on the cows, demonstrating that benchmark figures don’t always show the full picture.

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