This Week in Farming: Fit farmers, old kit and rising prices

Bonjour and welcome to This Week in Farming. The countdown to the end of harvest, summer and the start of the Rugby World Cup in France is on.

There’s a fine week forecast for many, so hopefully it will help many of you catch up with uncut crops, and France playing New Zealand next Friday night.

In the meantime, here are the best stories from Farmers Weekly in the past seven days.

Nutrient neutrality

Just like the fine weather this summer, the nutrient neutrality scheme has been snatched away almost before it arrived.

As deputy editor Abi Kay explains in this week’s lead story, it dashed the hopes of some landowners in England who could have tapped into what was looking like a big source of private-sector cash to offset the pollution created by new housing developments.

In my editorial this week, I ask what impact this may have on the bigger picture for environmental payments – both private and public – noting that despite government rhetoric, it may put other future income strands on shakier ground.

And in other Defra news this week, the department has finally revealed when the Sustainable Farming Incentive (SFI) scheme will reopen for applications – mid-September.

Bright week for prices

It’s been a good week on the markets, with prices heading higher in the beef and rapeseed sectors, with the former helped by rising back-to-school demand.

Lamb prices may have edged back on the week but remain well above year-earlier levels, and analysts say good export demand and tight supplies in the south of England will likely help to keep a bottom in the market.

Meanwhile, check out how this Durham family farm have managed to hit 1.7-1.8 lambs weaned a ewe tupped after battling back from a string of flock health setbacks.

Depreciation-busting young farmer business

“Broken, cosmetically rough, or worn out.” No, not most farmers in their sixties, but the state of the machinery that arrived at ADJ Contracting, as described by machinery writer James Andrews.

Check out this brilliant story of how three mechanically-minded friends in Cumbia have got into the contracting game using cheaper retro kit that they fixed up themselves.

And if you’re in doubt that FW has something for everyone, read our story at the other end of the tech spectrum on how a Northampton arable farmer is using a drone to cut his nitrogen use.

Who shall be crowned?

Worn out is one phrase that certainly can’t be applied to the finalists of our Britain’s Fittest Farmer competition.

All have heaved, stretched and sprinted their way to the top of the leader boards at one of our regional farm show qualifiers this year, earning themselves a place in the final at fitness enthusiast Tom Kemp’s on-farm gym.

The final will take place on 17 September with awards for fittest male and female under 40, and a mixed veteran category. Best of luck to all.

Good week/bad week

It’s been a good week for Farmer Focus writer Sam Walker’s work experience student, Laurie.

After acing every task thrown at him over the course of a busy harvest week, Sam mused: “ We need to revisit the “time served” idea that it takes ages before you get any skilled jobs and to start firing the next generation’s enthusiasm.”

It’s definitely been a bad week for Natural England head honcho Tony Juniper.

As well as suffering a huge setback on nutrient neutrality, a system he championed, he’s also found his agency under the spotlight for its behaviour on Cornwall’s Penwith Moor, where it wants to establish a site of special scientific interest.

Farmers have already started to sell up their holdings in response to what is set to be stringent stocking restrictions, with chief reporter Phil Case noting in his excellent analysis piece that MP’s from all main political parties are raising concerns about the agency’s behaviour in the area.

Listen to the FW podcast

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

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

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