Jack Frater: Time to review the ‘inner workings’ of farms

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions. I won’t go to the gym as much as I say I will, so there isn’t much point in pretending.

Instead, I have a wishlist for the next 12 months. An England grand slam, being gifted a Defender (preferably an old one), and dinner with Margot Robbie (aka Barbie) are the more unlikely things on the list – but a boy can dream.

See also: Jack Frater – there’s lots to love and hate about social media

About the author

Jack Frater
Jack Frater is an agricultural consultant based in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. He graduated from the Royal Agricultural University with a degree in agricultural management in 2013, having grown up on a family farm near Alnwick.
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Another wish that appears quite unlikely to come true is us having definitive answers about how the new Scottish agricultural policy is going to work in practice.

I have previously complained that the lack of clear information from the Scottish government has meant farming businesses are unable to plan ahead.

Since then, the finance secretary has once again raided the agriculture budget to the tune of £28m. This is on top of the £33m taken out the previous year.

I suspect this will shortly start impacting agri-environment scheme applications, as there will be no money to pay for them.

I am a firm believer that the various direct support schemes over the years have had a negative impact on agriculture.

It has delayed innovation and stifled the pursuit of efficiency, as too many businesses have become reliant on annual payments, and complacent about them landing in the bank account.

It is only now that these payments are reducing in England that some are looking at the nitty-gritty of their business.

So possibly my main wish for 2024 should be for the businesses that need to – and often the people who run them know they need to do this, even if they never seem to quite get round to it – to undertake a proper assessment of the inner workings of their farm.

Review the physical and financial performance, and look at how best to improve before it is too late.

Or maybe I should be thinking smaller, and just that our new dog behaves itself, or I go a full 12 months without removing a gatepost with a grain trailer.