The majority of farmers are optimistic, confident, hopeful and excited – tempered by the realisation that conditions and returns will be challenging.
Resilience, creating allies, flexibility and a clear united voice are recommended. Investment and expansion are still very much in order. An outcome from the wet weather of 2012 is a focus on drainage and water availability.
There was a call for greater co-operation, take up of Producer Organisations and more sustainable milk prices. Schmallenberg is a major concern for beef and sheep producers with R&D for the arable sector.
More clarity on CAP reform was seen as important, and the UK Government should listen to farmers’ issues more and work more on cutting red tape. Retailers need to support British provenance and to work on long-term relationships.
The discussion held on Thursday 10th January 2013 looked at the topic of “What do we want for farming and the countryside in 2013?” and generated a total of 468 tweets on the topic from 88 participants. These included farmers, agri-food businesses, rural advisors, land agents, lawyers, journalists, academics and NFU officeholders, as well as members of the general public.
Q1 How do you feel about 2013? Confident? Worried? Raring to get on with new plans? Tell us about your hopes and fears.
- Excited – purchase finalised on extra 150 acres, no 2 years are the same, so hopefully can only improve
- We’re feeling optimistic – it seems we need to help ourselves and each other more than ever. It’s going to be tough for many
- Confident about 2013, but nervous about the hangover from 2012, especially soil structure & nutrient leaching.
- Very worried really because it will take this year to rectify last year’s problems
- Hoping for some settled weather, as we have lots of drilling and fieldwork to catch up on
- Hope we get the conditions to erase the horrors of 2012 that are lurking out there in the fields
- Worried we’re off to such a wet start & hoping for a long dry spell, with occasional showers?
- Optimistic, although production will be down a little in tonnage terms as have some spring wheat due to wet autumn
- Very hopeful, more cattle then we ever have. Going to experiment with different breeds & use of AI on cows, Exciting times!
- Excited. This is the year I get my hands dirty. Classroom studies are over, time to get real
- Raring to go! Expect new farm apps & app updates this year
- I think that the livestock sector is going to have a very challenging 2013, more so than arable
- Two years of belt tightening ahead, luckily 2011 was good, another year like 2012 would be frightening
- A quarter of the farm still to drill, much of that a bog, not ordering any seed yet. Had better starts
- Rather doubtful about 2013 , feel sheep prices may be very low, hoping for a nice spring/summer
- Optimistic, Hoping to get my big chance and get working on a farm this year, hoping to be working with either sheep or dairy
- Optimistic about beef prices and grain price but feel there is no room for error as income was -£50k off budget last year
Q2 Are you planning any investment or expansion? In buildings, extra land, your website, new kit?
- Planning huge expansion: launching our b2b food trade network, raising more investment, and going international
- New parlour as an absolute priority, been 30 years in the waiting. Will see where we’re at after that!
- On a mission to push cow numbers to capacity 287 to 300, consolidate into a good 300 then on
- Lea Valley is trying to expand its glasshouse area by 20% resulting in £30m investment, only the planners stand in the way
- Grain trailer with flotation tyres! but might hold off until becomes clearer whether braking standards are going to change
- As the economy starts to pick up, we need to improve our customer service, to attract new diversification business tenants
- Agriculture has over the last 2 decades fallen into the efficiency trap. Not understanding the negative effects.
- 100% committed to making ag data work for the farmer, gaining investment and investing in useful productivity
- Renovate gem of a building in fabulous spot or watch it tumble down. 4th holiday cott. But nervous of the market.
Q3 After 2012’s WET weather, have you made specific plans for 2013? E.g. re: cropping, drainage, land use?
- We are changing to spring cropping and putting some land back to semi perm grass as owner won’t spend on drainage
- Will be targeting areas that haven’t drained properly – got ponds back where we haven’t had them for 30 years!
- Up in Cumbria pasture land soured during summer but sub soiled pasture showed marked improvement
- Got spring wheat seed ordered for where we failed to drill winter, and focusing on improving drainage in two small areas
- Field drainage started today! May bolus young stock if 2013 is wet as their condition has suffered which we think is minerals
- More desperate maintenance on existing drainage, ditch cleaning, jetting, flap valves, dream about new drainage systems
- All our Sugar Beet Basic seed grown under glass now. Steckles currently growing outside but look very small
- A lot of my plans for 2013 have been caused by the wet weather of 2012, planted wheat where we could not plant where we wanted
- As it happens, my soft fruit neighbour has asked about building a reservoir on my farm, so he’s thinking future droughts
- We’ve replaced older drains and are planning on replacing more before lambing, subsoiling the lowland ground too
- Think being prepared for too much and too little water will be key for future
- We are planning to store more roofwater via harvesting. Employing reverse logic again may return to normal 30inch rainfall
Q4 After 2012, will there be more or fewer opportunities for young people to farm land?
- We’re seeing more opportunities for young farmers – especially for those who make their own luck.
- There will be opportunities this year, young farmers are the future, a future that we have to start embracing now
- I think there will be less opportunities due to high land prices and less farms are employing staff to reduce output
- Prob no change, needs removal of direct payments 2 level the playing field between young/new entrants & established farmers
- I think there is a lots of opportunity for young entrants still, start small, think smart & use technology to your advantage
- Can someone define the age of a ‘young farmer’ for me please? In our upland area I feel like a teenager compared to some
- Young(ish) new farmer (38) I certainly hope there are opportunities out there, but plenty of competition for sure
- So much land around me is wasted by old farmers that just live off the SFP
- Opportunity always there, heartening to see so many young folk in agriculture passionate about getting stuck in!
- The opportunities are there but financing will always be the issue, esp competing against large companies
- Hard to tell whether it’s getting easier or harder, but I’m convinced it’s worth chasing every chance as hard as possible
Q5a First, POLITICS…What would your message for 2013 be to those in power – in Westminster, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Belfast?
- Work WITH us, and things will be a lot easier for both parties
- Listen less to the corporates and what they want, and speak to us on the ground and see what we need.
- Understand farming + food can drive economic growth, and give clear signals to farm businesses. They will deliver the goods!
- Stop dithering and get real. The world is changing, FAST & food is THE MOST important resource. Invest in transition
- Cut red tape. It takes 18 months to get the licences from EA, NE, DEFRA etc to approve a reservoir, but only 6 wks to build
- Make a real effort to reduce red tape for those working in rural businesses; cut form filling and tests
- Politicians must support growth via planning and encourage growers to invest, more glass/buildings, more jobs, more food
- I’d ask for no surprises please. Farming requires long term planning and policy to match
- Austerity has failed and cut the legs of any recovery, All industry will be affected & may force CAP reduction
- Don’t allow the Treasury to influence Defra’s policy positions and negotiations as much
- Please stop chasing votes, listen to those that understand Ag and make Food and Farming central to UK future
- Get central government to realise that food (& indeed water) are going to be huge in the next 5yrs, invest in the future
- Please tackle the TB issue & reduce the endless red tape
- Rural areas need new blood, who need somewhere to live so let’s have some sustainable development in the countryside
Q5b And on EU issues? What do you want from the EU in 2013?
- How about a level playing field across EU? Can’t even manage one in the UK.
- Producer organisation recognition from EU for UK PO’s, level the playing field for UK growers, DEFRA need to support also
- More from the EU? I want less from the EU. More please from the real market. EU often too late and restrictive
- Agree clarity on CAP reform most important, in particular a sensible solution for “greening”
- EU need to lead data interchange standards drive in agriculture with their agriXchange project and talk to others in US
- Be good to see EU politics butt out of some things, but get more involved elsewhere. It’s guiding where that’s the hard bit
- EU must work to get people out of cheap food/subsidy mentality, value food for what it costs to produce and respect farmers
- EU should sort the CAP and value food production, be sensible on new technology and don’t be afraid of science, embrace it!
- All for less subsidy reliance but let’s not end up being better at exporting than feeding our own population sustainably
- EU is a global player. It needs to get going on developing a modern farming sector as we cannot afford to get left behind
Q6 Specific sectors now. First up, DAIRY. What do we want to see? Is this the year of the PO?
- Would like to see a year without any milk processors going bust!
- 2013 could be the year of dairy cooperation, surly its worth a try, not sure we need any more SOS Dairy
- This has to be the year of proper milk prices almost 10% drop in production
- Really important farmers get together as PO before end of quotas + need voluntary code in contracts
- Until we are paid above the CoProd. and retailers/consumers are more realistic to what it costs to produce how can pillar 1 go?!
- Hope that in 2013, dairy farmers are somehow finally able to band together and command a sustainable price for their milk
- Voluntary code a good start, but pretty weak, there are plenty of stories of it being ignored already
Q7 BEEF &SHEEP: What do we want to see in 2013?
- A good quality grass all year would suit me. Nothing has grown here since Aug-still got lambs in the barn!
- Schmallenberg vaccine pie in sky or real possibility?
- Can 2013 be year of more dedicated supply chains finding ways to share risks of market volatility? Let’s hope so
- I’d like to see a push for lamb burgers sold in fast food restaurants! Why don’t we a minted Mclamb burger!
- I want sheep banished from the farm and all the hassle they create
- It’s an old chestnut , but some real progress with TB , it’s grinding us down, costing millions and getting worse
- Schmallenberg – last yr think we suffered from it with very low lamb numbers but no deforms this yr normal scanning! Fertility was affected
- Always amazed to see lamb at £16.99kg at Waitrose whatever the weather, season, market price
Q8 On the CROPS side, what’s needed? Any requests off HGCA or just a prayer for good weather?
- A new herbicide with a completely new mode of action, to combat black-grass resistance
- Keep up the R&D trials, as crop yield increases are stagnant in real terms
- A lot of dry weather… I’m being careful what I wish for, last year I wanted rain in March… Well we all know how that went!
- Wheat with good disease tolerance after last year’s disaster with Oakley
Q9 Given their influence, what focus should RETAILERS give grower and other suppliers in 2013?
- Retailers should take their growers & suppliers much more seriously in 2013 (& beyond!) – long-term partnerships critical
- Retailers realising the importance of farmers next step is for them to educate the consumer to build strength to industry
- Their profits should come through their customers, not by nailing the producer further into the floor
- There was some focus on buying British from retailers this year. This has to continue and increase
- Generally, retailers have upper hand, need to learn humility and work with farmers not just exploit for commercial advantage
- Need to see the fresh produce code realised & retailers need to help make data collection for assurance easier
Q10 So, how can we become more RESILIENT in 2013? What’s needed?
- We hope industry can reach early agreement on research priorities for UK agriculture
- So far 2012 has proved that our industry IS resilient; targeted inputs and precision can provide the next step
- DIVERSITY in everything we do: crop types, number of farmers/wholesalers/retailers leading to consumer choice and RESILIENCE
- If you survived 2012 you’re already pretty resilient
- Farmers must become allies as well as competitors, united we are stronger. There has been a shift but this must continue
- Be clear why we are in business. Be clear what our business is trying to deliver. Develop flexibility in what we do
Links to more information
- Farming Resolutions- some ideas to make 2013 a good year for you http://blondeagadvisor.wordpress.com/2013/01/09/219/
- NFU survey shows farmer confidence is down http://www.nfuonline.com/Our-work/Economics-and-International/News/2012-NFU-Farmer-Confidence-Survey/
Simon Haley, Reading Agricultural Consultants (@halo42 on Twitter) and Alan Spedding, 14 January 2013