Farmer Focus: Wet land dries out quickly in April

Spring finally arrived in April. What a difference a couple of weeks of good drying weather makes to the land. At the beginning of April very little field work had been done here as the land was still very wet.

A potato field of mine had a two-acre lake in the middle of it inhabited by numerous swans, geese and ducks. After some intervention with a digger, they moved on and it began to dry out. When we drilled the field recently we had difficulty seeing our mark due to the dust.

So, all spring crops are drilled into perfect conditions with the earlier ones beginning to show. Winter cereals are all looking well and oilseed rape is in full flower. As I write, we are now almost up to date with all top dressing and spraying after some long hours on the tractors and a couple of visits from my diesel supplier.

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While the climate is currently favourable for practical farming, it is not so good in the corridors of power here. The debate continues apace as to how we should implement CAP reform in Northern Ireland (NI). We have the option to treat NI as one region or more for the calculation of the new Basic Payment Scheme from 2015.

Our department’s own figures clearly show that a two-region model would provide the most benefit and support for the majority of farmers and sectors here, so I am at a loss to understand our minister’s preference for a single region model and a short transition period. Perhaps we are about to experience our “Margaret Beckett” moment.

A single region calculation would be hugely damaging to the Agrifood sector here and hamper its future sustainability and development. This unfortunately has now become a political issue, rather than making the decision purely on what would deliver the most benefit for agriculture, the economy and consumers. Let us hope that common sense will prevail.

I’m told that “the art of good management is delegation”, so I wonder why I, as the owner and boss, end up on a Saturday afternoon lifting stones on my own with the tractor with the broken radio? Must do better.

Robert Moore farms 160ha of arable land at Molenan Estate just south of Londonderry in Northern Ireland. His family have farmed the land for over 200 years and he currently grows wheat, barley, oats, oilseed rape. He still has a small suckler herd on non-suitable arable land.

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