Farmer Focus: Potatoes in, carbon grab and meddling media

January weather was pleasant, allowing us to get the first two acres of early potatoes planted.

The planted area was skinned out nicely so can tackle a drop of rain now. No pressure now to get the planter out before St Patrick’s day unless conditions are perfect.

Agriculture is right in the centre of major change – some we can shape, some we can’t. However, I find it very disappointing that the Northern Ireland future agriculture policy fails to cover two important areas.

See also: What Hereford Monitor Farms’ machinery cost review reveals

About the author

Richard Orr
Richard Orr farms 160ha in Downpatrick, Northern Ireland, with his wife and parents. He is an AHDB Monitor Farmer. Crops include wheat, oats, barley, potatoes and vegetables. The business also has a farm shop and beef cattle
Read more articles by Richard Orr

There is nothing on land tenure, and just a load of guidance on generational renewal.

It’s virtually impossible to secure land on a long-term lease, making farm businesses vulnerable to landlords. Even more so now the “carbon grabbers” are stealing prime food-producing land.

I am in the 8% of farmers under 40 and this bill is talked of as a once in a lifetime opportunity. I don’t see an opportunity, security or incentive for any young person to grab.

It just continues to reward inefficient backward businesses, stalling the progression of the industry.

If a 25-year-old with all the qualifications to boot went to his bank manager and said I’ve got a business plan for next 10 years to expand the farm business or start my own and I need to borrow £X, the first question would be: do you have land security to work this business plan?

Err no, just until November… a farmer can do much more for the resilience of their business and the environment if they have long-term stability in the land they are managing. 

Oh, and bear in mind if you wanted to graduate from our flagship agriculture college Cafre it wouldn’t be in arable as there is not a full-time course offered, just a couple of bolt-on modules.

However, despite the minister’s vision of “access to high-quality, relevant and accessible education”, there is zero incentive to take this forward as a career.

It is also infuriating at the time of writing and when farmers peacefully protested today at Stormont over climate bill concerns, the headlines were still all about Downing Street parties.

When the media did cover the climate issue, most of the air time was given to the few climate-change activists, not the farmers!

On a positive note, all crops look well and we’re just about ready to apply nitrogen to winter barley. 

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