Patrick Godwin is farm
manager for the 930ha
(2300 acre) Lee Farm
Estate, West Sussex. Soils
are chalk-based with
combinable winter and
spring crops occupying
525ha (1300 acres).
RECENT frosts saw phosphate and potash applications completed on arable ground and 30kg/ha (24 unit/acre) of nitrogen applied on backward wheats and some rabbit and deer grazed patches.
The wheat price is firming for next harvest and the k is gaining value against sterling. All in all things look a bit brighter.
A "Profit and Loss" projection to the end of September 2001 based on this years farm budget shows a loss after rent. But a "what if" exercise shows that a rise from the budgeted £70/t to £75/t for the cereals, plus 1.5p/litre on the milk price and £2 extra/lamb would convert that loss to a small surplus.
I am an optimist by nature and these encouraging signs mean I am looking forward to better times. But there is many a slip between cup and lip and the "what if?" scenario may not see returns up for all enterprises. A cold, wet March could strangle the lamb crop, while no rain in May and June would stifle the cereals and steal any hopes of getting milk from grass.
The Countryside Agency has started mapping out the Freedom of Access bill and I hope that a sensible approach to the designating of "Downland open for access" is taken. Personally I suggest a consultation with MAFF because parts of the Downs in existing Environmentally Sensitive Area management schemes will be removed from the scheme by growers and put back into conventional agriculture if they look like being given over to public access, and understandably so.
Laws may say one thing, but their interpretation by the public can be another, and that is what counts. We have already had people convinced that the "right to roam" is law and that they can wander at will. Farmers have, over the years, been lambasted by the general public for the destruction of our flora and fauna. But the public and their dogs tramping at will over the countryside will do nothing to enhance any form of biodiversity. *
The Freedom of Access bill could see land entered into environmentally sensitive area schemes ploughed up, warns Sussex downland grower Patrick Godwin.