I must remember to inform our insurance company that the lightening conductors are indeed working. They have been nagging me for months to get a certificate of effectiveness from my electrician. Surely the proof is in the pudding and I can now assure them they are indeed doing their job.
Much of the farming community are baffled as to why once again David Cameron has sacked a perfectly good secretary of state for DEFRA. Each time an agricultural minister connects with his brief and those he is representing, he pulls the rug from beneath their feet. He did the same with Jim Pace and now again with Owen Paterson. What our industry needs is continuity especially at times of difficulties as now.
Sir Jim was certainly the farmer’s champion and played a very significant role negotiating CAP reforms in Brussels. He was ceremonially dumped at a crucial time, and we are still dealing with the fallout of that. I suspect had he not been moved when he was, some 22 months ago, we would not be having to cope with the three crop idiocy and other unhelpful impositions.
Now Owen Paterson who has played a straight bat with the badger cull, tackling the aftermath of the winter floods ensuring work on flood defences were put in place, and recognises the importance of sustainable food production, has also been shown his cards
We now have in place South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss who will no doubt do her best to pick up the reins but it is quite frankly disappointing that she has to.
Farmers can be generous and supportive of those who are seen to do their best for the industry, and I am sure Miss Truss will be well supported. She will no doubt be bombarded with advice from NGOs, animal welfare campaigners and environmentalists, let us hope she listens to those who truly understand the countryside, the farming industry and the importance of sustainable food production.
A priority will be to pick up the CAP reform brief and ensure British farmers do not suffer from the usual gold plating of EU directives by little men in grey suits sitting at their desks in Whitehall. We now wait for clarification regarding the new rules which will apply as from 1st January, but we need answers very soon in order to plan our autumn sowing and field work.
If we get things wrong we will be heavily penalised financially and with the prospect of poor returns from this year’s harvest sales, many farmers could face considerable financial difficulties. So, much is riding upon receiving the correct information, at the right time.
Each week countless articles are written in the farming press about tackling weeds and rogue grasses in arable crops. Dominant weeds such as blackgrass become increasingly resistant to the chemicals we are now restricted to. Discussions and advice also include tackling the various diseases in wheat, barley and other arable crops which have been rampant this summer, brought about by the high humidity.
A practical solutions which I have regularly returned to over the years in my columns here and occasionally in the Farmers Weekly, has been that of the merits of stubble burning.
Each time I raise the subject I am rebuffed and told to ‘get back in my box’, by DEFRA ministers, NFU presidents and some local farmers, all of whom tell me that stubble burning with NEVER be re-introduced.
One of the very first conversations I had with the recently retired but then newly elected Peter Kendal was on this very subject. It is now time to raise the subject again. We need a reliable, effective and inexpensive method of cleaning arable fields of disease, pests and weeds. There is a growing need to cut back on expensive and increasingly ineffective chemicals, and the easiest, traditional, tried and tested method of doing so is to burn the stubble.
Before chemicals were introduced stubble burning and tillage were the only methods of weed and pest control, it was only in recent years that a total ban has been introduced. The ban was brought in for purely environmental reasons, a few hedges caught fire, (this is entirely preventable if adequate preparations and precautions are taken), and there was pressure from some environmental lobbyist regarding wildlife casualties.
Not every farm or farmer would take up the option but many would to improve their chances of growing healthy crops with less chemical coshes. Perhaps it is time to approach the new minister and test the water to see if she would consider at least debating this practical and simple option.
Carola Godman Irvine