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LEADER

Ben Briggs, Editor – 01772 799 429 – ben.briggs@fginsight.com

Winter 2018 will pose a unique set of challenges for UK ag

And finally... For the chance to win an ArmaTrac tractor for a year, see page 29 of this week’s edition.

EMOTIVE stories from NFU council about the impact of this summer’s drought are a reminder, if one was needed, that many farmers will face a tougher winter than usual because of a lack of forage and bedding (see p1). While some farmers did receive rain this summer, there are many more who have seen very little precipitation since the start of spring. For these, and others, getting through winter is shaping up to be a Herculean task. That is why this winter, more than most, needs the farming community to pull together like never before. As an industry, we are particularly adept at responding to severe blasts of bad weather, be it last winter’s Beast from the East, or the severe floods which have wrought destruction at several points this decade. The challenge for the winter of 2018/19, however, will be the slow creep of panic many will start to feel as their feed and bedding stocks dwindle to perilously low levels and they struggle to make coherent decisions in pressurised situations.

OPINION

The weather patterns of 2018 have been erratic. Some will argue either way about whether it is linked to climate change but, whatever is driving such weird climatic conditions, the fact is it will continue posing serious challenges for agriculture if it continues. Keeping an eye on friends, neighbours and family in these times will be key because, while farming is a business, the personal toll it can exert can be considerable.

Decisions Making decisions about culling herds or flocks will come easy to some but, for others, it will not be so straightforward. We also have the added challenge of darker nights and shorter days to contend with. As one farmer at a discussion group I spoke at recently said, the start of their programme of events always coincides with the darker evenings and while, for them, they have the outlet of a monthly meeting at which to discuss issues they might face, others walk a more solitary path.

Rebecca Pow MP, champion of the Sustainable Soils Alliance

Soil should be the bellwether of our farming and environment policy THE end of my tenure as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Defra Ministers gives me an opportunity to step back and take stock of progress over the last few years. The work we have done – the Farming Command paper, the 25year plan for the environment and the Agriculture Bill – demonstrate a real sense of vision and ambition. The policy framework which emerges will have dramatic environmental benefits for our water, air and biodiversity with natural capital thinking at its heart. But the one environmental indicator I am most pleased to see receive so much attention is soil. For too long soil has been overlooked, even neglected, as a key environmental indicator. There are a number of reasons why, but they 10 | OCTOBER 12 2018

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all lie in soil’s complexity. Strictly speaking, there is no such thing as good and bad soil in the way there is for air and water. Soil health can be judged according to physical, biological and chemical characteristics, the crops grown on it and techniques used to manage it. And that is just agricultural soil. There is also non-farming soil to consider urban and industrial soil, peatland and forest soil. The absence of a one-size-fits-all approach to healthy soil management creates a challenge for those looking to develop a policy framework for soil applicable for the whole country, for different soil types, crops and habitats. The European Union struggled to develop a policy framework in the

Soil is often overlooked as an environmental indicator.

way it did for air and water. For this reason, the UK resisted for many years the development of a soil framework directive, arguing for a tailored, more local approach. I was delighted to see my Defra colleagues commit to putting healthy soil at the heart of the UK’s postBrexit farming strategy. Work to develop this framework is under way

and I will continue to be involved as champion of the Sustainable Soils Alliance, an organisation dedicated to reversing the crisis in our soils within one generation. The eyes of the world will be on the UK as it develops its post-Brexit farming and environment policy, evaluating our role as a trade partner and an ally in combating shared environmental challenges. They will see our efforts to design almost from scratch a farming system with environmental and productivity goals at its heart as a test bed for their own efforts. The creation of a national soils policy will demonstrate what is possible through an understanding of the unique characteristics and dynamics of soil, joined-up thinking and cutting-edge technology. FGinsight.com

10/10/2018 15:34

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Farmers Guardian 12th October 2018  

Farmers Guardian 12th October 2018