Vice President Blog

Over the past week, Scottish and UK Governments have been trying to convince us that support payments will be guaranteed after Brexit writes Vice President Gary Mitchell.

On direct support, the Tories gave commitments in their election manifesto of ‘the same cash total in funds for farm support’ until 2022 before significant changes which is a promising outlook that allows you to plan.  However, to then announce a guarantee on LFASS payments only for 2019 is unacceptable as, for many hill farmers, this funding is far more crucial than SFP.

In my view, the LFASS is ‘farm support’ so we need some clarity on what this manifesto pledge means.

As a former arable and beef farmer, I understand how vital basic support and Single Farm Payment has been in the past, certainly when prices are low.  Looking forward, I still have a serious issue when our Region 1 land cannot generate an income without support.

Regardless of what sector we are in, we need to work out exactly what it is costing to produce our final product.  In my own business, I have moved to greater reliance on contractors to take care of silage and slurry work to try to cut machinery repairs and labour.  That has shown me the real cost of delivering a service and given where the price of farm equipment is heading now this will get more expensive in the future. 

So, I have had a thought.   How about supplying Scottish and UK Governments with a farm simulator program for their computers and let them become farmers -  because the best way to experience the realities of this industry is to have a go!  What different parameters would need to be on this software? 

• To buy or rent your imaginary farm, can you raise the 20 percent deposit necessary to get a bank to support you?  If the answer is no, then renting is the only option but trying to find a 5 or 10-year limited duration tenancy is almost impossible due land reform policy. 

• Which sector should you enter? Beef, sheep or arable? Can you secure any fixed price going forward to plan a budget?  Arable might be the only one where you could do this. Beef would require the most capital and sheep would generate the lowest turnover but maybe the best margin per pound invested.

• What about environmental compliance?   Is your imaginary farm in an NVZ?  Do you require to meet EFA requirements to secure greening?

• Are you planning on your imaginary farm having a wet or a dry year? 

• Support payments - when would you estimate that they will arrive your farm bank account?
All these ideas on what parameters must be taken into consideration are my own, farming on Region 1 land.

When you look to the hills and uplands and the more LFA regions, it becomes more complex and the variables more determined by climate.

For a change, I wish our two Governments would try to look more at the fundamental issues in trading our product at sustainable prices.  For those being produced on Region 1 land, that should be the baseline on where support should be measured. I truly believe the days of cheap food to keep inflation down should be termed a myth.

Author: Gary Mitchell

Date Published:

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JB Steel

1400 days ago

what about dairy?
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