This Week in Farming: Young farmers, election and cereals

Welcome to This Week in Farming, your weekly catch-up of the best content from the Farmers Weekly website over the past seven days.

But before we come up with that “all important quick reminder”, how fit are you feeling? Fit enough to take part in our search for Britain’s Fittest Farmer? 

Entries for our annual competition are open, with the first qualifier at the Lincolnshire Show on 19 June. Visit our Britain’s Fittest Farmer page on the website to find out more and enter. 

Young farmers

The debate around the behaviour of some young farmers continued to stimulate conversation this week, following the publication of our analysis looking at instances of sexual harassment and even sexual abuse at events run by the Young Farmers’ Convention and Young Farmers’ Clubs.

Opinion has been split as to whether Farmers Weekly has been right to call it out and provide a voice to young women who have been on the receiving end, or whether it has been blown out of proportion and caused reputational damage.

As deputy editor Abi Kay explains in her editorial leader, the vast majority of male young farmers “behave admirably, do fantastic charity work and look after the women they know”.

But given the numerous tales of abuse we have been notified of in the past week, brushing it under the carpet does no one any favours. 

Election fever

“Fever” may be overstating it – though we are eagerly awaiting the publication of the party manifestos next week.

But some clues were on offer this week when the “two Steves” (Labour shadow Defra secretary Steve Reed, and the current Defra secretary Steve Barclay) addressed a future of farming conference in west London.

They were short on details, but long on promises.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats – now lying fourth in the opinion polls – faced accusations of “mimicry” after the party launched its “Back British Farming” campaign, seemingly oblivious to the fact the NFU launched its own Back British Farming campaign back in 2013.

Having moved into third place in the polls, Reform UK will probably have lost a few farmer votes with its latest policy initiative, to increase National Insurance for migrant workers to 20%.

Scottish special

With the Royal Highland Show taking place later this month, we have been taking a closer look at Scottish agricultural issues this week.

Freelance journalist Debbie James set the scene in an interview with Alan Laidlaw, chief executive of the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland.

He is optimistic about the show’s prospects.

FW‘s chief news reporter Phillip Case considers the latest policy perspective as the new Agriculture Bill makes its way through the Scottish parliament – and in particular, the need for a proper funding commitment.

And we also look at why Scottish farm leaders question the value of new national parks.

New varieties 

A couple of cereal varieties have come to our attention this week – one new wheat and one newish barley.

Beowulf is a new Group 4 wheat from Limagrain and is the seed breeder’s first new variety since Typhoon in 2022. It is said to be high-yielding and could earn growers £5/t extra for milling.

Meanwhile, Syngenta’s Tennyson spring barley, which actually joined the AHDB Recommended List in 2023, has now secured full approval for malt distilling and provisional approval for brewing.

Quite what malting barley will be worth this harvest is considered in a market outlook piece by business editor Suzie Horne

Kit of the week 

The Machinery team at Farmers Weekly has been out and about, keeping a close eye on any new offerings. 

This week’s reports include a full test of Toyota’s “super-frugal” Rav4 plug-in hybrid, defined as “functional, unpretentious, and offering everything most families need”, and a look at the new Siloking trailed diet feeder range from Kverneland.

Machinery editor Oli Mark also reports from the recent Sustainable Grass and Muck event at the Aberystwyth University Farm, where “foragers barked, mowers whirred and muckspreaders stunk out the 400ha site”.

In other machinery news, a group of farmers are set to embark on a 4,700 mile Great Britain charity run in a JCB Fastrac. Good luck! 

Listen to the FW podcast

Don’t forget the latest edition of the Farmers Weekly podcast with Johann Tasker and Sandy Kirkpatrick.

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

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