Farmer Focus: Turbulence ahead for arable fortunes

The recent so-called cold snap left me convinced Brits are getting a bit soft. Doomsday weather warnings in the media were followed by a brief dusting of snow, -2C temperatures and normal high tides.

Repeatedly crying wolf will only lead to problems when some proper challenging weather actually strikes.

Meanwhile, my Polish friends have been farming their cattle mostly below 0C since 1 January, with a recorded low of -24C (at which time the electricity unhelpfully also failed). I’m not sure we would fare very well in these conditions.

See also: Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers

Following Donald Trump on Twitter is a roller-coaster ride and demonstrates the influence social media now holds in the modern age.

His continued condemnation of his own intelligence agencies does not bode well for his presidency and his dismissal of anything negative as being “fake news” also has the potential to poison all modern debate. 

Hopefully, his advisers take back control of his account before he causes a major diplomatic incident.

His stance on climate change could also negatively influence the fortunes of agriculture globally. If he tears up the US Energy and Independence Security Act 2007 (to again favour fossil fuels over biofuels), a vast area of land will come back into food production again and away from ethanol manufacture, with the obvious knock-on effect on supply. 

UK Brexit stance

So Theresa May favours a “hard Brexit” and will commit to leaving the free market and customs union to control border movements.

Agriculture will have to lobby hard to make sure we are not the sacrificial bargaining chip at the negotiating table and try to focus minds on the importance of a trusted domestic food supply.

On the plus side, perhaps we can develop our own science-based regulatory framework instead of being bound by European politicised decision-making. There may be turbulence ahead.

David Butler farms just south of Marlborough in Wiltshire in partnership with his parents. He also runs a contracting company and farms about 870ha of combinable crops alongside a herd of 280 dairy cows.