Farmer Focus: Glyphosate debate hits fever pitch

Recently I have spent much of my time helping out in the dairy because of a team changeover. I found the work enjoyable. It has also been a great month for some excellent farmer meetings to help forward planning.

The most useful of these has been a Promar benchmarking group that has helped us to identify our weaknesses and eliminate unnecessary costs.

I am told some benchmarking groups are bravely running scenarios modelling complete removal of farm subsidies; this must be a sobering exercise.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Our crops look well, but are a bit forward. We will need to be patient and hold back on nitrogen applications. Compound fertiliser and manganese deficiency are the current priorities, with spring drilling not far away.

We have recently run demonstrations of several agricultural telehandlers. We were struck by how massive engine bays have become to incorporate all the ad-blue technology as part of Tier IV Final emissions rules.

Cab visibility is much reduced and I wonder how many accidents this will cause. There are also downsides in terms of additional costs and reduced power-to-weight ratios. Do these emission controls really have a net benefit?

I was disappointed to see plans to increase the maximum road trailer weight limit to more than 18.29t have been dropped.

The obvious play-off between trailer size and number of traffic movements has been forgotten. Yet another example of the government failing to prioritise agriculture. But then again, farming does only account for 0.6% of GDP.

Glyphosate debate

The glyphosate debate is now heating up to fever pitch, with both sides forming entrenched opinions. I find myself questioning the motivations of those groups that seem determined to see this active withdrawn.

The Soil Association seems bent on subverting the competitiveness of conventional agriculture and I suspect the fact that the UK organic area has fallen by a massive 30% since 2008 has something to do with this.

Environmental lobby groups also need reminding that if UK agricultural production drops, imports must increase, with potential habitat implications somewhere else.

I will write to my MP to explain how vital this safe product is for our business and for the environment.


David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.

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