This Week in Farming: Maize, milk contracts and Red Tractor latest

Welcome to another edition of This Week in Farming, your regular round-up of the best Farmers Weekly content from the past seven days.

But first, I think it can now officially be declared: spring is in the air. The wind may still be thin, the ground sodden and more rain in the forecast, but despite everything I think the worst is finally behind us. Maybe.

Now, on with the show.

Red Tractor latest

After much anger in recent months from grassroots farmers on the topic of Red Tractor’s Greener Farms Commitment, there’s been a major shift from a group of farming unions and the AHDB this week – they’ve formally recommended the module be scrapped.

As I note in my editorial, this may put them on a collision course with the rest of Red Tractor’s management board at the end of this month.

While the move has been building for some time, it’s no coincidence that the shift has taken place publicly just a short time after the appointment of Tom Bradshaw as NFU president.

He sat down with news editor Philip Clarke for an in-depth interview this week.

Employment law/milk markets

There’s plenty of regulation happening elsewhere, of course, and we’ve got you covered with the latest insights.

Employers and employees alike should have a look at this update to employment law, including the latest changes to rules on holiday pay, the right to flexible working and redundancy protection for pregnant members of staff.

Dairy farmers will also value a squint at this in-depth piece on the long-awaited update to the rules surrounding milk contracts, with every big change summarised.

It’s been a positive week in the milk markets generally, with farmgate prices once again nudging above 40p/litre, which will come as a relief to many.

Maize scrutinised

In some quarters there are few crops disliked more than maize, with the forage crop’s link to soil erosion giving it a poor reputation despite its value in cattle rations.

Ahead of this year’s planting season we look back at what can be learned from the 2023 harvest, and cast an eye over what can be done to reduce the hungry crop’s carbon footprint – which, happily, is the same advice as getting it off to a good start.

Someone who uses plenty is Dorset dairy farmer Stuart Rogers, who told deputy livestock editor Shirley Macmillan this week how he’s grown milk yields while cutting down on bought-in feeds.

Cropping decisions

There are plenty of other bedraggled crops in the ground already, of course, and arable farmers have been out in force this week to see how they’re faring.

Here’s the latest advice from our Crop Watch advisors on making the most of nitrogen.

We also have an in-depth look at compaction this week, with arable deputy editor Emma Gillbard asking: could compaction-busting crops become a reality?

One farmer who will surely be reading is Farmer Focus writer Charlie Cheyney, whose column this week tackles his own soil damage woes.

Who’s up and who’s down?

As Ocado becomes the fourth retailer to launch a buy British button on its website, Bosworth MP Luke Evans, who started the campaign to make these happen, will surely be feeling happy.

Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Morrisons had already signed up to Dr Evans’ initiative.

Winter wheat growers may be among the gloomiest this week as prices stutter despite a forecast 25% drop in the crop’s planted area compared with last year, with just 1.4m ha in the ground.

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