Farmer Focus: The rats have rewired my JCB

A new decade has begun. Despite the autumn drenching and an ongoing media battering, I sense a welcome hint of optimism and positivity from farmers at this pivotal time.

Anxiety about the election has passed, and the new government, empowered by a big majority, will clear the Brexit logjam and pass an improved Agriculture Bill, finally bringing some clarity.

It would still be constructive for farmers to write to their MPs and invite them to their farms to discuss the implications of imminent trade talks with the EU and US for the industry.

See also: Early N is first step in rescuing waterlogged wheat crops

In MPs’ minds, farmers are simple food producers, but we are now also climate change mitigators and biodiversity boosters.

Pests

Talking of biodiversity, there are some species I could have done with fewer of recently.

Rooks and jackdaws have been making a complete nuisance of themselves, setting up pop-up restaurants in late-drilled cereal crops.

Our gas gun artillery division have nearly matched that of the army on Salisbury Plain, playing a jolly game of “pass the corvid”.

If the technologists exploring how robotics can benefit arable farming could spare some time, they might develop some “robo-scarecrows”, then we might finally be able to turn the bangers off and stop making everybody’s dogs woof.

Fortunately, mild weather over the festive period has helped push crops rapidly through the vulnerable emergence stages, and most now have viable plant populations.

In the farmyard, we have also seen an unwelcome influx of rats. I can only assume the exceptionally wet weather has flushed them out of their burrows and sent them seeking new accommodation.

My airgun sportsman contacts are helping us get back on top of this infestation, although one rat has already attempted to rewire the JCB, at some cost.

Negotiations

I was concerned to hear Sajid Javid dismiss chances for any EU regulatory alignment post Brexit.

The implication is a new matchmaking with US standards, but this would conflict with recent statements by Theresa Villiers.

Is this a game of pre-trade negotiation bluff? Having said that, European farmers all seem busy blocking up the continent’s roads with tractors in protest about anti-farming policies.

If the UK really can adopt a bespoke, science-based approach to standards, there may be some positives for the Industry and food security.