Kevin Littleboy

14 November 1997

Kevin Littleboy

Kevin Littleboy farms 243ha

(600 acres) as Howe

Estates at Howe, Thirsk, N

Yorks. The medium sandy

loam in the Vale of York

supports potatoes, winter

wheat, rape and barley, plus

grass for sheep

THANKFULLY, I can now say all is safely gathered in. The potato harvest is finished and all the wheat drilled.

The mid-September drilled wheat is still struggling to chit on the heavier land, due to a cloddy, dry seed-bed, but the late September sown crop is all through.

Variety choice for this season has been Abbott, Buster, Consort and Rialto winter wheat, Regina winter barley and Commanche oilseed rape. The latter was drilled at 4.5kg/ha (4lb/acre) and irrigated to get good establishment and now almost looks too well.

At the Great North Meet conference I discovered a new concern to add to our list of challenges – as if a strong £, low cereal prices, area aid penalties, poor quality, farm assurance, and the weather are not enough.

The Minister of State, Mr Rooker, said: "It is disappointing that the commissions proposals (Agenda 2000) contain no hint that this compensation should be phased out. We (the Labour government) strongly believe that it is important these payments should be temporary and degressive, so they are used as adjustment aid, rather than a means of slowing down what we regard as the inevitable and essential development and rationalisation of EU Agriculture."

With his words still echoing in my mind, I joined a group of north-eastern farmers visiting Brussels. It was refreshing to hear the commission officials we met say they did not believe the rug was about to be pulled out from beneath our feet, leaving UK agriculture stranded and fending for itself.

There was a genuine realism and understanding of the consequences of the future expansion of the EU and the impending WTO talks, coupled with budgetary limitations. Thankfully, the workings of the commission and the diverse political nature of Europe mean any changes will be implemented slowly and nowhere near as sudden or as dramatic as our political masters in the UK would like. &#42

Crops are coming away well on Kevin Littleboys Howe Estate in the Vale of York. But Brussels bureaucrats leave him feeling nervous.

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