Farmer Focus: Forget subsidy, from now on, we are on our own

We have had three prime ministers this year, but still no decisive plan on three issues of national importance – food, energy and defence.

Meanwhile, the government seems hell bent on asset stripping the country because it’s easier not to commit to a decision than grab the bull by the horns and make sensible policy.

It has been difficult keeping up with the Christmas demand for cattle, as the weather went against us and we’ve had a lot of clipping to do, which is quite frankly the worst job on the farm.

See also: How a Simmental herd made £79 a cow before subsidy

About the author

Doug Dear
Livestock Farmer Focus writer
Doug Dear farms 566ha (1,400 acres) of arable land growing wheat, spring and winter barley, maize and oilseed rape and runs a custom feedyard, contract-finishing about 2,400 cattle a year near Selby, North Yorkshire. Most cattle are finished over 90-120 days for nine deadweight outlets, as well as Selby and Thirsk markets.
Read more articles by Doug Dear

It could be done so much more safely at the processors, but they refuse to acknowledge the issues surrounding live clipping and don’t even have a consistent standard across the various plants.

There has been a lot of talk recently about Velcourt’s thoughts on “production versus nature”. It stated that a gross margin of £338/ha (£137/acre) is the point at which Countryside Stewardship is worthwhile.

My feeling is that it is bad practice to farm your way into a point where there is low gross margin, and subsidy becomes the only option.

Some people have abused hundreds of acres, farming without proper rotations, lime and muck.

As farmers we all need to take a longer-term view and look after the assets we have. I truly believe that from here on in we are on our own, and it’s all going to be about profit and loss because the money isn’t there anymore.

I reckon every country is going to miss climate targets, which were unattainable even before Putin invaded Ukraine.

Do we really want to be in the position of our Dutch colleagues – 3,000 of whom have been handed compulsory purchase orders and evicted from their farms – to then outsource food production?

If this is what net zero and green politics get you, we probably require a “net exit” referendum.

With UK wheat prices softening, partly due to national pig and poultry demand for grains declining as they cease production, have we all been caught out with rampant ag inflation, buying expensive inputs forward?

To quote Rip Wheeler (the rancher on the US TV series Yellowstone), as always “there’s work to be done”, so that’s wheels up from me and all the best for 2023.