Tom Chanter: No place for a farm business in the world of ELM

This second lockdown would, I thought, send similar shockwaves across the food sector as the last one, making prices very erratic, but seemingly this is not the case.

Since we are now “practised” at being locked down, the behaviour of shoppers is a bit more rational – there is even plenty of loo roll on the shelves.

The beef market which was hard hit last time is doing a textbook job of “carcass balancing”.

See also: Tom Chanter – Tractor prices make me long for a high-hour hero

Mincemeat, which was as popular as lavatory paper in the last lockdown, is still a major purchase of shoppers, but retailers are doing a great job of balancing the carcass and still shifting the added-value prime cuts that make them money.

Recently there has been a lot of talk about the tightening of supply of beef cattle, which is one of the reasons the market is enjoying above-average prices (for once).

Where does [the ELM scheme] leave the farmers who, heaven forbid, are actually trying to farm for a living?

Of course, supply is bound to have tightened because so many beef farmers have been squeezed to the point where they can no longer afford to carry on.

Then their farms become part of another farm, or the options presented by the likes of Countryside Stewardship are maximised.

This concerns me in relation to the new Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme.

The more I read about it – and having participated in a few questionnaires and online meetings about how it might work – I am worried it offers little place for a commercial farm.

Where does that leave the farmers who, heaven forbid, are actually trying to farm for a living?

Farmers seem to have given a lot of information about their businesses, but, so far, we are yet to see much coming back about the ELM scheme.

What we require are transparent trials with findings published as they go. Then, as findings are published, more farmers should be able to get involved so can see how they will be effected.

We are relieved to have all our maize off and all our cereals drilled as the ground conditions are now very testing. A hovercraft is probably the only suitable vehicle for crossing heavy ground at the moment, but I’m not sure how effective it would be at pulling a combination drill?

On another note, this is my final Farmlife column. I’ve enjoyed sharing a slice of my farming life. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading it too.