It seems every week we get yet another new government policy announcement, all of them part of the ‘Save Big Dog’ campaign. Personally, I think the weak Tory MPs who keep supporting Boris Johnson need to think long and hard about this. The reason I stray into politics in a column on farming is to illustrate how this continual flip flopping and making up policy on the hoof affects all of us, the voting public and business as well. On the run up to the 2 bye elections, one of which just happens to be a rural farming community, suddenly we see ‘Big Dog’ getting his wellies dirty out on a farm and at County Agricultural Shows. Then an almost complete handbrake turn, with the announcement of the Government’s Food strategy. Where did that come from? Could the government have finally started to listen to farmers about just how serious the situation is with domestic and world food supply? It came as quite a shock to the industry leaders who are supposedly talking to ministers on a regular basis. Apparently now, instead of growing trees and turning farmland into a giant park, we need to grow more of our own food.
The basic objectives as set out by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are as follows. ‘A prosperous agri-food and seafood sector that ensures a secure food supply in an unpredictable world. A sustainable, nature positive, affordable food system that provides choice and access to high quality products that support healthier and home-grown diets for all’. Finally, to grow export trade opportunities. All absolutely brilliant for our home agricultural industry. I can’t wait to get cracking as it’s what we have been calling for. I look forward to seeing what help we will get to achieve all of this. Long live Big Dog! Please just bear in mind we are planning at least 5 years in advance and have currently been preparing for a domestic farming policy that has been encouraging a scale down in home production. Also, as inflation in the general economy is just shy of 10% and in the farming industry nearer 30%, we have a mountain to climb to achieve these commendable aims of repairing our dwindling self-sufficiency. Then there is the lack of labour and a most unhelpful immigration policy. All of these will see food costs continue to climb well into next year.
Back home we are gearing up for harvest and have been busy getting the grain stores spotlessly clean. The plant has all been serviced, the grain trailers have all been tested over a rolling road and the Jolly Green Giant, our combine, is ready to strut its stuff. So, we are coming to a field near you starting this month. As always, please be aware for the next few months you might meet more large farm vehicles than normal on our narrow country lanes. We will always do our best to pull in whilst you manoeuvre around us and your help and understanding is much appreciated. We are literally bringing in the harvest that will put the food on your table for the next 12 months. A busy time of year for us with long hours, seven days a week, but one we all look forward to. It is the culmination of a year’s work and the point when we get to find out how successful we have been. Whether our barns be full or not, whether we are happy or disappointed with the yield and no matter if the weather is hot or wet the crops still have to be gathered in. First on the list will be the winter sown barley. Hopefully, before its first birthday, next will be the oilseed rape. Then on to our main crop which is wheat. Part way through that we will need to grab the spring barley and then finally the oats. Whilst all this is going on we need to sow next years crop of oilseed rape in early August and find time to plant some cover crops to help feed the soil prior to next year’s spring sown crops. All of this on over 700 hectares with just three of us. Oh the joys of harvest!