Farmer Focus: Let’s use Brexit for a better subsidy system

We are having resistance problems. I’m not talking about blackgrass or septoria, but rain.

I guess we overused it earlier in the year and our land now appears resistant to every passing weather front or group of showers.

During the previous 10 years we averaged 172mm of rain for the months of July, August and September combined, but this year we have only had 66mm, with a lot of sunshine and heat.

This has meant both cover crops and oilseed rape are very much smaller than hoped for and the ground is now too hard for decent, breakage-free machinery operation.

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Meanwhile, other farmers across the country tell me it’s far too wet. It’s amazing that in such a small country, conditions can vary so much.

One ray of sunshine, or shower of rain depending on your current weather preferences, is the positive effect Brexit currency syndrome will have on our BPS payment.

For some reason I have yet to pin down, we have received two small top-ups to last year’s payment, which is great, but they are still way short of what we believe is missing.

Please, please, please can we use Brexit to have a simple system that doesn’t cost huge amounts of money, time and angst?

Unfortunately, when you look at the sliding US wheat futures graph, it is apparent how our currency is papering over a continuing, depressing oversupply.

With so little oilseed rape about, I wonder if the crushers will import or simply shut down for a while? Like others, I planted less despite theoretical margins on paper looking relatively good. I’m glad I did given the conditions.

I had an inkling the companion crop helped the flea beetle situation last year, but with the current desert, this year’s companion has yet to get anywhere.

Maybe we need to plant the oilseed rape into an already growing companion? I only ever use foliar insecticides as a very last resort, but we are now at that stage – it is spray or have no crop at all.

Andy Barr farms 700ha in a family partnership in Kent. Combinable crops amount to about 400ha and include milling wheat and malting barley in an increasingly varied rotation. He also grazes 800 Romney ewes and 40 Sussex cattle and the farm uses conservation agriculture methods.

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