This Week in Farming: Cereals, AHDB levy and fuel outlook

Hello and welcome to another This Week in Farming, your bulletin of the best content from the Farmers Weekly website.

Here are five of the biggest topics that have been driving the conversation in the farming world this past week, and a look ahead to what’s coming up on the next edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast.

AHDB push to increase levy

As the sun shone down on the Cereals Event in Nottinghamshire this week, the AHDB was turning up the heat around conversation on its spending power.

Tom Clarke, the chairman of the Cereals and Oilseeds board, said the farmer-funded organisation had had a “near-death experience” of late, in part due to its spending power declining by 40% since the last time rates were raised, a decade ago.

In my editorial this week, I hold back from calling outright for an increase in the levy but note that farmers are now at a crossroads where they must choose between a well-funded, muscular organisation and one that will inevitably decline into irrelevance.

Over in the politics tent, farm minister Mark Spencer also raised eyebrows when he said Defra had rowed back on a pledge to move beyond income foregone payments in the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme.

Lamb price falls, but brighter outlook

Prices for lambs are now well below year-earlier levels amid poor demand from overseas buyers, but prospects look better later in the month, experts say, as demand should intensify in the run-up to the Eid al-Adha festival.

Farmers already have a slew of performance targets to aim for with their flocks, including daily liveweight gain, but will methane output be among them in the future?

It’s highly likely, according to sheep farmers Rob Hodgkins and Jo Franklin, which is why they’ve been participating in early trials to measure the ewe-to-ewe variation to see if traits linked to lower output can be identified.

This may attract a future premium for a retailer or other buyer looking to trumpet their environmental credentials. Watch our video to see how it’s working.

More news from Cereals

As well as a tussle over the future of the AHDB, there was plenty more for farmers to see and do at the Cereals Event this year, at its new venue in Nottinghamshire.

The machinery and arable team were out in force to talk to the community of manufacturers, advisers, seed and spray merchants, and many more.

Here’s six more of the best stories from there so far:

Fuel market outlook

One of the key increased costs over the past 12 months that has troubled growers is, of course, diesel.

While prices have settled down in recent weeks, business editor Suzie Horne warns in this timely piece that forward-fixed deals are still hard to find as suppliers are still wary of future volatility arising from the war in Ukraine.

There’s also a timely round-up of safety advice as we head towards the period of maximum fuel consumption – harvest.

Beaver fear

Flooding isn’t high up many lists of farming worries at the moment, with many not even enjoying the flurry of thunderstorms that moved across the country in the middle of the week.

Yet NFU Scotland continues to fret about the impact of the expert tree-gnawers following the publication of a forecast this week that notes their numbers north of the border could rise to 10,000 by the end of the decade.

Our farming opinion writers have been lining up to have their say on the topic, with Isle of Wight farming consultant Robyn Munt warning that the government needs to get ahead of a backlash by organising a scheme that gives fair compensation to all landowners that suffer damage from them.

And with a twinkle in his eye, Sussex farmer Stephen Carr went to the Knepp Estate, famous for its rewilding, to see them in action for himself.

Listen to the FW Podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast. This week Johann joined the throng heading to Cereals and brings you a special edition dedicated to the event with expert arable journalist Louise Impey.

Listen here or bring us with you in the cab by downloading it from your usual podcast platform.

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