Subsidy junkies?

Writing this post on 9 July –we’ve started cutting the first of the OSR and there are still more questions than answers surrounding the new CAP reform measures we will all need to implement at drilling.

I know for some folks who grow pulses as part of their rotation and are large enough to grow all the crops in their rotation every year that these changes practically are not concerning (ourselves included as we grow four crops and have green manures which will cover our EFA requirement). However it will impact our business as contractors, as it hits our customers in that 10-60ha bracket hardest – where four of our ten customers sit. Three other customers used agreements to bring them into ‘our fold’ and can legitimately add their claim to ours. A further two were mostly grass farms with small amounts of arable so are exempt from both EFAs and the Three Crop Rule. Through an alarming stroke of luck our tenth customer farms in different counties, but all on one form and rotates the farms so we are OK there. Unfortunately he neighbours two of the four that we are struggling with so what was a productive block of 375acres for three farmers and one contractor of one crop will from now on be: 1 crop for 200ac, 2 crops for 75ac and 3 crops for 100ac, plus EFAs for the larger two.

Should I just move the patchwork? – We currently have a spread of crops every year on each of our own blocks that we farm – should I amalgamate these to compensate for the loss in efficiency our business will suffer by breaking up other blocks that we farm?

We were told at a CAP Reform meeting at the end of June, the simplest way to get around the EFA and Three Crop Rule was to just ‘grow 5% pulse crops next year’ – we stopped growing pulses in 2006 as we could never make any money out of them and have created a profitable and sustainable rotation without them . Why should I and my customers lose this 5% off the bottom line just to keep 85% of the original basic payment (which it appears will also be our ELS when current agreements end – for no other money)?

I understand they want to cut the old pillar 1 funding – it was always promised and that’s fine with me but do it in a way that doesn’t discriminate against those smaller farmers trying to make a living out of actual crop production rather than subsidies.

Ten years ago I realigned my business to make sure we weren’t reliant on it for our profitability – we have used it for infrastructure since 2004, not running costs. In 2005 it was our profit, now it’s 31% of our profit – from what I heard yesterday at the meeting I am going to prepare my business over the next ten years to be ready to do without it altogether. By then we will have lost 30% of our payments – and who knows what the true ‘cost’ to our businesses this will come at as the environmental noose tightens.

Can we go without or are we hooked on the system and subsidy junkies? Will it be me or my daughter’s generation that take that liberating leap into running true production agriculture businesses? Or will she be the third generation existing off the state?



Jo Franklin is a partner in her family farm and grows approximately 970ha of combinable crops just to the west of Royston, Hertfordshire. Jo also has 230ha of grassland for 1,000 New Zealand Romney ewes and runs a 400ha mixed arable and cattle unit in Hampshire. Jo has a keen interest in soil and crop health, and uses a number of precision farming techniques to ensure accuracy of application. She is currently developing a commercial grain storage facility on-farm. Financial viability and pushing yields are her other main interests.