This Week in Farming: Coffey, venison and slurry

Hello and welcome to the first December edition of This Week in Farming, your weekly round-up of the best Farmers Weekly content from the past seven days.

Here are five topics that we don’t think you’ll want to have missed, and a look at what’s coming up in the next edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast.

Slurry grants

Defra’s latest funding package for slurry stores opens next week with £13m on offer to help with the cost of bringing facilities up to six months’ capacity.

Eligible farmers can claim 50% of the cost back, up to a value of £250,000, while similar funding schemes have been available in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In my editorial this week I urged farmers to push slurry management to the top of their capital expenditure priority list as it’s highly likely that more punitive measures are on the way for farms found to be in breach of regulations.

Meanwhile, some growers who haven’t yet received their BPS payment may be concerned by the news that RPA staff have voted to go on strike before the end of the month in a dispute over pay, pensions and other terms.

ELM progress

“All talk and little action” is how many farmers have summarised progress with the Environmental Land Management (ELM) scheme this year.

Their frustration simmered at the CLA conference this week, with new Defra secretary Therese Coffey passing up an opportunity to give a hoped-for update on payment rates.

But while some have argued that the lack of clarity is likely to push them down a route which sees them farm more intensively to offset the impact of losing the BPS payment, Environment Agency chair Tony Juniper warned this would be short-sighted.

Speaking before Ms Coffey made her remarks at a gathering organised by Natural England, Mr Juniper said: “Farm businesses can’t stay in the black for long if nature is in the red.”

Food prices

Optimism for further increases in the milk price next year is in short supply amid a recent surge in milk production and softening consumer demand.

Arla said this week it would stand on for December and First Milk announced its price would be unchanged in January, while smaller processor Freshways announced a 3p/litre cut for the first month of 2023, taking it back to 47p/litre.

Dairy market specialist Chris Walkland said commodity prices were crashing and milk prices would probably come down in February.

Separately, a broad analysis of what share of the retail price ends up in a farmer’s pocket has revealed that the sector is squeezed ever more tightly, both financially and contractually, and has too little power to demand better prices and fair treatment.

That’s according to research commissioned by charity Sustain, which found that producers typically get just 3p of every £1 spent by shoppers and is our lead magazine story this week.

Diversification dilemma

This has pushed many farmers into seeking alternative enterprises to make ends meet, a topic pondered by columnist Lucy Nott this week.

There are opportunities aplenty out there, she notes, but it remains a challenge to do it right, and if you’re feeling overwhelmed then you’re certainly not alone.

Some landowners may look to gain income from entering the new marketplace for biodiversity credits.

If you want a primer on how that will all work, then check this piece featuring expert commentary from Townsend Chartered Surveyors.

Venison’s dear, isn’t it?

It’s the return of a well-known Hampshire farmer to our pages this week after we sent Charlie Flindt to investigate how best to deal with growing numbers of wild deer.

Find out here what he thought of the latest British Association of Shooting and Conservation initiative to get us all to eat more venison.

Look out for more from Charlie in the opinion section soon as well.

Listen to the FW Podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with Johann Tasker, Hugh Broom and Charlotte Cunningham.

In the coming week, they’ll be bringing you more reaction to Therese Coffey’s delaying tactics at the CLA conference, a close look at the arable Recommended List results, and a tribute to rugby legend Doddie Weir.

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

See more