Higher organic prices encourage farms to switch

More UK farmers are switching to organic production to take advantage of rising organic food sales, according to new figures from Defra. These show that the number of organic farmers increased by almost 2% in 2017, to 6,600 farmers, covering 517,000ha - the first increase in at least six years.

“More shoppers than ever are looking to buy organic food, and with a 29.4% increase in UK land currently under organic conversion, it suggests more land will become fully organic in the coming years,” said Roger Kerr, chief executive of organic certifier OF&G. 

Joint effort to protect glyphosate

Independent farming bodies have joined forces to promote best practice in glyphosate use to help ensure its continued availability and efficacy. The European Commission recently renewed the approval of glyphosate for five years, and the AHDB, AIC, NFU and the Weed Resistance Action Group are now working alongside Albaugh, Barclay, FMC, Monsanto, Nufarm and Syngenta. The group will review guidance, update resources and publish materials on a dedicated web page.

NFUS urges retention of live exports

NFU Scotland has outlined the importance of animal transport to the Scottish livestock industry in response to Defra’s call for evidence on controlling live exports and improving animal welfare after Brexit. It said the export market played a vital role in supporting healthy markets, with already very high welfare standards. “Given how important animal transport is to Scotland, decisions must be based on sound evidence not rhetoric,” said NFUS president Andrew McCornick. “There should be consideration by government to ensure that opportunities for the UK industry are not limited through domestic regulation.”

Tighter emissions control in the pipeline

Government plans to improve UK air quality will result in further restrictions over ammonia emissions from farms, which account for 88% of the UK’s ammonia emissions. Under the Clean Air Strategy proposals, launched by Michael Gove on Tuesday (22 May), environmental controls will be extended to large dairy farms by 2025 – similar to existing permits for intensive pig and poultry units. According to a report by Farmers Weekly, farmers will be required to invest in new infrastructure and equipment, aided by a new system of public money for public goods. Other industries will also face restrictions.

Manage woodland to capitalise on high timber prices

Soaring timber and firewood prices should encourage more farmers to plant trees and manage existing woodland, according to forestry body Confor. Forestry Commission figures show standing timber prices have risen by almost 30% in a year and nearly doubled in the past decade, to around £24.64/m3 for conifers. Firewood prices have risen to about £50-60/t, said a report in Farmers Weekly. Andrew Heald, Confor’s technical director, said: “These statistics highlight the need for forestry and wood processing to be a much more central focus of the rural economy after Brexit.”

Deadline looms for CSS requests

Farmers have just days left to request a Countryside Stewardship Scheme mid-tier application pack. While the application deadline for an agreement starting on 1 January 2019 is 31 July 2018, they must request the pack by 31 May. For more information visit here.