Farmer Focus: Struggling to recruit skilled arable operators

I’m sorry to let those of you who are still struggling with a wet spring know that the irrigators started here before the end of March.

A dry winter has prompted calls from certain parties in this locality to ensure that our drought resilience programme is robust and fit for purpose.

It is not rocket science and fairly easy to comprehend, after all, when I write about how dry it is many of you soon let me know that’s not the case everywhere. We are a country that has a lot of rain.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

It just tends to fall in the wrong place and at the most inopportune times. The answers are simple: store more of the water that falls and make sure that we can move it from one place to another in a cost-effective way.

The government has spent quite a lot of money on various research projects working this out. I suppose that at least this has provided an element of evidence and figures to support my wild, fairly obvious theories. The question is when is anyone going to be allowed to bite the bullet and start building?

Apparently, there are constraints around what the water companies can and can’t invest in. This seems ludicrous, why not let them make a realistic return on their money and pass the cost of what is vital to life onto those who consume it?

Then let’s not mention the likelihood of being able to get a major infrastructure off the ground for 10 years or more. Maybe we need to consider new legislation to ensure that such projects pass unhindered, just imagine standpipes in the street in the 2020s – that won’t be good for the economy.

Flat out spring work

Besides the bit of watering, sugar beet drilling is finished into good conditions and we are flat out with fertiliser and spray applications.

On that particular issue, I do have to say that I was disappointed by the response to our advert for a sprayer operator. It seems not only are we having difficulty in finding people to harvest and process crops, but we are also starting to find difficulty in sourcing exceptionally skilled talent to operate the most sophisticated of machines.

Is this going to be a long-term challenge, or will someone come out of the woodwork soon?  


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.

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