Farmer Focus: 2022 proved a hot and expensive year

Happy New Year to you all. Here we go again – another year of undoubted turmoil and uncertainty in our sector.

Now is a fantastic opportunity to review the past year and make some plans for the future.

Last year can be simple summed up as “hot and expensive”. That described 2022 nicely, although it only tells a small part of the story.

See also: Beet growers offered yield protection to mitigate crop risk

About the author

Andrew Blenkiron
Arable Farmer Focus writer
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.
Read more articles by Andrew Blenkiron

Crops and livestock had a great start to the year, but then the heat kicked in and dire consequences followed. So what now? How do we plan based on an exception – or is this to become the new normal? 

I started last year with a warning that we had entered an era of sink or swim, and that only the fittest would survive.

Now that we have had a year of even lower direct payments and massive increases in costs, I can only reiterate my comments of a year ago.

Hopefully, a new Countryside Stewardship Higher-Tier scheme, combined with the Sustainable Farming Incentive and a tree-planting carbon sequestration scheme, will be part of the solution.

This is alongside new environmental and biodiversity market opportunities, further diversification, an increase in renewable energy production and the usual productivity gains associated with effective and efficient food production.

The solution will not include farmers supporting the price of food, as we have in the past.

The days of the supply chain and the customer exploiting our support payments is clearly outdated, as with everyone else we quite simply cannot afford to do that anymore.

The first Sunday after Epiphany is plough Sunday – this year it falls on 8 January.

It will involve an outing to Bury St Edmunds Cathedral to get a tractor and plough blessed as part of the service.

Given that the blessing has been in place since the Middle Ages, I don’t think the clergy are ready to change the format to a regenerative approach quite yet, but I am sure the blessing will hold for us all, no matter what our cultivation tendencies are…

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