Farmer Focus: Need for a more resilient farming system

With harvest (finally?) here, hopefully we can draw some sort of line under the past 12 months and start the cycle again with the usual optimism that next year will be better.

As farmers, we need to build more resilience into our farming systems so we can cope better with very wet and dry periods.

Especially now that we are entering the BPS transition phase and payments will begin to reduce, we are faced with the huge challenge of reducing our costs – probably by the value of the BPS payments – over the next few years, removing any safety net that direct payments create when things are difficult.

I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme will not replace BPS in terms of value, but will be more of a Countryside Stewardship-type scheme, albeit hopefully with some better options and payments.

Prospects for harvest appear to have improved slightly, but looks can be deceiving, so I’m not getting my hopes up for anything more than the rather low budgeted yields I have been expecting. At least storage space won’t be such an issue this year.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for virtual farming and doing it all with robots from the office just yet after months of webinars and video call meetings.

As good as they are, they can also be incredibly frustrating when internet connections aren’t suitable, or someone forgets the mute button.

The time saved not having to travel to meetings or events is all well and good, but there is an important social aspect that is missing, along with the over-the-hedge farming on the way there that would probably make everyone feel better this year, knowing things don’t really look that great anywhere, and not just at home.

Recently published statistics for farm safety show the number of fatal incidents has fallen to the lowest number on record, but they are still terrible statistics with the fatal injury rate for agriculture, forestry and fishing being 18 times higher than the other industry average – so we still have a very long way to go.

With that in mind, I wish everyone a safe harvest and autumn campaign.