RPA birthday surprise for Robert Law: June column

Former Farmers Weekly Farmer of the Year Robert Law farms 1200ha (3000 acres) on the Hertfordshires/Cambridgeshire/Essex borders growing cereals peas, forage rape for seed and sugar beet. He also manages 500ha (1200 acres) of Nottinghamshire sandland

As if we didn’t know already, Farmers Weekly is a must for RPA staff at Newcastle.

Having bemoaned the absence of my SPS cheque in my last column, I received a call from a senior RPA manager at 2pm on the Friday within hours of FW hitting the doorsteps.

The manager assured me that my case was receiving their utmost attention and she would personally see that my payment was made in 14 days.

A further surprise was in store. The RPA obviously holds all our personal details in its data bank. On Saturday, as I reached my half century, while going through the morning’s post I found, among several oversized garishly coloured envelopes, a very small and modest brown one.

While being extremely tactful when asked to name my best birthday present I can certainly say what was my most useful.

One item recently through the letterbox but not displayed on the sideboard is the 2009 beet offer. It’s been firmly lodged in the pending tray.

Growers have until 15 August to respond, giving everyone plenty of time to do their sums and decide whether beet growing stacks up. With volatility in commodity prices as never before and soaring prices for inputs like fertiliser and fuel I could do with breathing space to examine my options.

I’ve been an enthusiast of environmental schemes since their inception nearly 20 years ago. But having ridden along with their ups and downs, never-ending goal posts moving and annual funding crises, I was alarmed to hear Natural England’s chief executive speak recently of a “Countryside in Crisis”.

This is all very negative and I would suggest that a few summer field trips for Ms Phillips may be in order to see the positive stories out on farms.

See you all at Cereals.

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