BOOKS HAVE HEALTHY LOOK

WE HAD a flurry of activity with sugar beet last month as part of our second lift was cleaned, loaded and hauled to the Wissington factory on Dec 13 and 14.


The first lift, comprising 39% of our sugar beet quota, was processed in late September and qualified for an early delivery bonus. About 10 weeks later that was topped up to 82%, making a total of 1592t of adjusted beet processed to date.


 Average sugar content for the combined lifts was 16.93%, total tare 12% and average amino nitrogen levels were 81. By the time you read this, we will have banked nearly 55,000 from this crop, which – when combined with our cheque from the Rural Payments Agency for arable area payments scheme credited on Dec 22 – has given our cashflow a welcome boost.


That might not be the case in 12 months” time after reform of the sugar beet regime and the hold-up we may experience for the payment of our new and depleted single farm payment.


During the week before Christmas, we lifted the last of the sugar beet at Sacrewell Lodge. The crop came out well and has been stored under cover in the veranda entrance to the grain store and should come to no harm awaiting movement towards the end of February. The precise time will depend on the efficiency of British Sugar in processing the remaining roots and size of the crop left on farms.


 We estimate that we have about 30 loads left which are 10 more than we were allocated at the beginning of the season. If replicated across the region, that could mean an even longer campaign.


The 8ha (20 acres) cleared of roots were ploughed, pressed and drilled with Xi19 wheat, sown at just over 300kg/ha or 535 seeds/sq m. That”s probably as well since the crows have been having a field day ever since.


As the finishing lambs eat their way across the forage rape, we are busy ploughing and pressing behind them. This land will be sown to peas on a seed contract but, hopefully, there will be some weathering before we prepare a seed-bed.


Talking of peas, we are currently loading the product of last year”s harvest. The first contract of vining peas has been collected at a received weight of 43.4t or 3.5t/ha (1.4t/acre) which should return a reasonable gross margin.


A letter from the Rural Payments Agency, dated Dec 17 and received four weeks later, announced that our arable area payments scheme claim had been completed and that the payment schedule was attached.


The declared areas, as expected, were reduced due to base area overshoots and a sum of 1774.93 diverted for modulation. But the payment rate for all arable and set-aside was stated at 246.13/ha (99/acre). Since we had declared an area of 27.53ha (68 acres) for peas, I calculated that we had been underpaid by about 980.


Indignant, I phoned our local RPA office in Newcastle, confident of my rights and its incompetence – it is an executive agency of DEFRA, after all.


As our conversation progressed, I began to realise that I had made a mistake. I had ticked the wrong box in section X of our base form and said No to the protein crop premium. This is a new section which one is required to confirm if growing peas to qualify for the additional payment which has, hitherto, always been automatic.


Things were not looking good for a change of heart at the 13th hour. But I was advised to fax details of my case to Newcastle and a decision would be made in due course.Three hours later, I received a phone call to confirm that we would receive the extra money and that mine was not the only such case on its desk.


Three cheers for commonsense, flexibility in the system and good public relations. A big thank you to Newcastle RPA.