Archive Article: 1999/12/31

31 December 1999

Farm inventors more than justified hopes

How fast the years rush by. We are now into the ninth year of our Farm Inventions Competition, sponsored once again by Barclays Bank and the Royal Smithfield Show.

Back in 1991 when the competition started, we worried about the level of interest and how good the inventions would be.

We need not have been concerned. Despite receiving more than 800 entries since the competition began, they were all high quality ideas. The machines promised to do a task better, faster or more cheaply than their equivalent off-the-shelf competitor.

Some of the inventions have gone into production. They are probably not making their designers into machinery millionaires, but any extra income is welcome. See Power Farming for details.

Lets make this New Year really special

Tonight the champagne corks will pop as the nation celebrates the new millennium. And why not? Farm profits may be down, but the future holds opportunities as well as problems.

Nearly all the 66 arable and mixed farmers who backed FWs barometer series in the 1990s admit profits are down.

But they are determined to succeed in the new century. Plant breeding, agrochemicals and modern equipment can all boost output, they say. Combined with new working practices and improved farm advice, they believe their fortunes can be improved.

The new millennium is a prime opportunity to rethink and restructure farming businesses. Make changes now and there could be real cause for both relief and celebration next New Years Eve.

No tears for hard-hit Dutch pig industry

News that the Dutch are having a tough time will win no sympathy from UK pig producers. They have had to compete with low-priced imports, while operating to higher welfare and food safety standards.

But Dutch farmers have also had many challenges. Classical swine fever, enforced restructuring, manure quotas and a bigger than average drop in prices have put producers under pressure.

Many have gone out of business. But the industry has survived by working together, developing a national quality control scheme and meeting consumer demand.

Sadly, all the UK importers want is cheap meat. With an over-valued currency, that is just what they get.

So forget the Dutch. The real culprits are the previous government, for placing unilateral legislation on the UK, and those retailers and wholesalers who encouraged farmers down the welfare route, but continue to buy on price alone.

Dont snub pulses as a beneficial crop

Pulse prospects may be gloomier than ever, but do not dismiss them out of hand. Rotational benefits could be more important than ever given the current trend to more cereals under Agenda 2000.

A good spring bean or pea crop not only helps to boost subsequent crop nutrition and cut disease worries. They can also spread spraying and harvesting workloads.

Given the temptation to grow more cereals in future those could be a big benefit and get some of next seasons bigger cereal area off to the best possible start.

Tough times can mean brighter stock future

Making the best of a bad situation is usually better than letting poor prices or performance drag you into depression.

Easier said than done. But some livestock producers have turned the tough years at the end of this decade to their advantage.

True it can be difficult to see a way through hardships. But at least planning to improve your businesses is a step forward.

The New Year could be an opportune time to assess how and where you can grow your business for a strong future.

If youre stressed, please ask for help

New Year can be an emotional time and this year farmers have much to become emotional about.

Bottling up worries magnifies them and does not solve anything. Talking to someone, even a stranger, can help get things back into perspective and in Farmlife this week we give a list of helpline numbers manned by people prepared to listen.

If you know someone who is suffering under stress bring the list to their attention. It could make all the difference to whether 2000 is truly a happy New Year.

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