This month, we are reflecting on what 2014 has presented us with, both in the farming industry and within wider rural industries. This week, James Milnes, of @RuralPics looks at the big issues the farming industry has faced this year, with a 2014 farming review.
A soggy start
2014 saw a very wet start with some of the largest amounts of rainfall recorded in various locations across the country, winter storms that were the result of changing global weather conditions battered the UK and caused much havoc. Gone from the media spotlight and most people’s memories were the floods of the Somerset levels in January, but for the people who live there and work there it was very traumatic. Even now, 10 months on things are not fully back to “Normal”, as the damage done by the weather will mean that 2015 will not be a good year either due to the slow recovery of the landscape and poor grazing and cropping. Despite the media attention, the support for those affected came from within the industry with farmers and those connected with agriculture from far and wide doing whatever they could, myself included.
The arable harvest came early again due to un-seasonal conditions and once it started it was all-ahead full to get it in before the inevitable change in weather. Prices of wheat in particular have been low and the potential crisis in the Ukraine could have had an adverse affect. Luckily post-harvest we are starting to see some degree of price increases happening.
One part of the farming industry that has taken a battering is the dairy industry with the supermarkets slashing prices. Dairy farmers were being paid 56p/litre for their milk when it costs 68p/litre to produce and then the supermarkets were selling it at £1.18, and taking with it the profit. If this wasn’t bad enough, they then dropped the price of a 4 pint carton to £1(25p/pint) – less than the price of bottled water, how is that sensible?
The current state of play
With the arable(Cereal) harvest all but a distant memory due to its early arrival from un-seasonal weather this year, now is the time for arable farmers to look ahead for the coming year. Time to make decisions about their cropping plans and start to implement them with their cultivation programs including the discing, ploughing, harrowing and drilling. Most arable crops are already in the ground and flourishing, these include Oilseed Rape, Winter Wheat and Winter Barley. The only crops still to be drilled are the Spring crops such as Spring Barley, Peas,Beans and then new crops of sugar beet and potatoes. Right now, the main harvesting focus is from the Sugar Beet and Potato growers. Potato harvest is all but done, with some growers still to bring in their crops. The sugar beet “campaign” is almost at the halfway point and indications from within the industry are that the sugar yield from the beet is good and growers are getting their crops into the factories for processing in good time to meet demand.
So, what’s next
The quieter time over the Christmas period and through the winter months see just “management” of the crops with a spray program and monitoring ahead of the better warmer weather in the Spring when the drilling will resume.