It is refreshing to hear this positive stance from Mr Harris, and as he said, we are still producing food and getting paid for it, and this will not change. He also noted that many farmers’ incomes have increased substantially since the Brexit vote.
Area payments will eventually be phased out, which could indeed leave us with a better industry, if opportunities are taken. It is worth considering whether we will all need guaranteed subsidies in the future.
Campaigners from the Sustainable Soils Alliance, recently asked Ministers for clarification as to how the government will incentivise farmers to improve soil health and the environment.
No doubt because both Michael Gove and George Eustice repeatedly say that protecting and enhancing soil health is the cornerstone of the agri-environment scheme to support farmer’s post-Brexit. It will they say, ‘be at the heart of the Governments’ agriculture policy, and if they get it right a lot of other things will take care of themselves!’
Some of us are baffled by this approach, and wonder what exactly we shall be expected to do to our soil, over and above what we are already doing, and have been doing for many years.
Anyone would think that soil management and min-till had been invented by DEFRA Minister Michael Gove. I was not aware he was around, let alone interested in agriculture some twenty years ago when most of us went down the min till route.
I think Robert Plumb, Soil Fertility Services Ltd, would have something to say about this – Robert does indeed have something to say about most things!
Robert has been working hand in hand with farmers throughout the UK for well over twenty years, striving to find biological farming solutions that are efficient and effective, to build up soil fertility and crop nutrition.
Soil fertility is dependent upon the chemistry, soil structure and biology being in balance. Robert’s most important message has always been, disturb the soil as little as possible, stick to min-till, and certainly never plough unless absolutely necessary.
Robert’s Soil Fertility Services have monitored and tested soil, and leaf samples from growing crops, regularly throughout the growing season, at Ote Hall Farms for over twenty years. This ensures that we have the right information and know the potential of our soil to produce healthy crops.
Regular soil testing tells us just how much natural fertility is ‘locked up’ in the soil. What combination of nutrients to apply to unlock that fertility, and how much Nitrogen and other inputs to employ.
My point is that farmers already take great care of their soil and natural resources. We create beetle banks, wild bird strips, 6 metre boundaries around field edges to protect ditches and water ways, and to encourage ground nesting birds.
Farming has created the beautiful countryside so admired. We trim hedges, clean out the ditches, and manage our woodland, hand in hand with producing the world’s best food, including bread, meat, milk, butter and vegetables; the basic requirements of every household in the land.
Our animal husbandry is the most robust and comprehensive and of the highest standard in the world.
In the recent freezing weather the public were reminded that we work in all elements 24/7 tending our livestock, and also turn out to help clear roads, and ferry hospital staff and medication with our tractors and 4 X 4s.
We do not need bribing to do our job. We want a fair price and an agriculture policy which is future proof for sustainable British food production.
This week Brexit negotiations move forward, and the Irish border must not become a political football and distraction. Border controls work well between the EU and Switzerland, there is no reason they cannot work here.