Farmer Focus: Virus crisis puts full harvest’s income at risk

Thankfully, the weather finally settled down here with a prolonged dry spell, which allowed me to get a first nitrogen application on to winter crops.

However, that was 20 March, which is much later than I would have preferred.

Although dry, it has been pretty cold and crops are very slow to get moving despite fertiliser and various trace elements to try to push them along.

See also: How to use active fallows to repair soils on undrilled land

Even grass is not moving, much to the frustration of my Aubrac cows with new calves.

I am particularly concerned about my winter malting barley, which is just sitting there.

I hope it gets moving soon, as when this lockdown is relaxed and the pubs reopen, we will all need a good, large drink.

We have, however, just drilled some spring malting barley into good conditions – just to be sure.

Like many others, I have been “isolating” in a tractor cab for some time now, which gives me time to think.

Most farmers spend a lot of time in isolation anyway, so the current coronavirus crisis is not that much of a challenge.

I can think of worse places to isolate than in the middle of a farm in the spring, taking in some rather pleasant views and able to get on with my job.

My concern is if I get sick, how does the farm continue at this critical time of year?

I wouldn’t just lose a month’s wages, but potentially lose a full harvest income, and that would have major repercussions.

This situation also upsets the marketplace and is now starting to negatively affect producer prices, the livestock sector in particular.

So, I really struggle to understand why some of our major retailers are importing beef from abroad when there is clearly plenty here in the UK and prices are on the floor.

Surely, they should be supporting home production, especially at this difficult time for everyone.

To me, it highlights a dysfunctional, greedy supply chain, a lack of effective marketing and poor communication with primary producers.

This situation must be urgently addressed in the near future, or there won’t be any home-produced food – with all the negative social and economic consequences that would bring.

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