“You need to make up your mind whether you are farming or messing about with stewardship”

My business centres around managing farms under contract farming arrangements, or farming with contractors.

It’s incredible how this sector has developed in recent times, with sustained investment by contractors in high output machinery, equipped with the latest precision farming technology. There is a lot of competition which keeps rates down. Collectively these factors along with solid grain prices have helped the farms I manage achieve a good level of profitability.

Looking forward the challenge is to restructure these businesses in a way that will replace the circa £91/acre BPS which will be slowly taken away as the transition to ELMS takes place. It is almost certain that land will need to be taken out of “production” and put into environmental measures. Logic says that we must identify the inherently unproductive and unprofitable areas and maximise their environmental output. The good news is that we do not need to wait for ELMS before we start this process. We already have the knowledge and tools at our disposal to get cracking. Countryside Stewardship gives plenty of options to “crop” the areas that we farm out of habit rather than for profit.

With this in mind, I’ve been putting a large Stewardship Scheme into place on one of my farms this autumn. It’s been a bit fiddly and incurred the ire of our contractor (who is absolutely first class). In a particularly frank exchange, he told me that, “You need to make up your mind whether you are farming or messing about with stewardship”.

I think it highlights the fact that the industry needs to change its mindset as we go forward. In my mind I am not messing around with anything. I’m restructuring businesses to ensure that they are fit for purpose going forward, and part of the solution is going to be farming the environment or taking public money for public good as it’s known in polite circles!

Happily, good relations have been restored with the contractor and I shall enjoy working with him to see how we can think outside the box going forward.

There will be more to say about this in the Farmplan webinar I am co-hosting on December 1st – to register follow this link https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/6788477559751478543