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Cousins working together on our family owned farm with the aim of running a commercial modern farm producing high yielding, high standard crops while maximising wildlife diversity. Brian is said to be the farmer and conservationist, whereas Patrick is a conservationist and farmer. This mix has given a new direction for the farm, building upon the work that our fathers and grandfather has done to improve the overall success of the farm business. The farm has gone from strength to strength with the farm being recognised at a national level winning the coveted National FWAG’s Silver Lapwing Award for farming and conservation in 2009 and then Patrick and Brian were named Countryside Farmer of the Year by the Farmers Weekly in 2010.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Flat caps and Tweed, tweeting away!

Having been away at the Oxford Farming Conference last week I was catching up with the multimedia world: Twitter was red hot during the Conference, reaching number five in the Trends list, which either shows the delegates were bored or the power of tweeting has hit a new market. My favourite tweet I read was: ‘#ofc12 can’t believe it has hit no.5. Can’t imagine farmers in flat caps and tweed, tweeting away in Oxford. But just for the record there was not much tweed, no flat caps but plenty of hot air spoken about topics that will direct our industry in the next year.
We attended last year and then, with the uncertainly of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform slowly showing its head, we heard how it might change our business in the long run after 2013. This year, Patrick and I were again kindly sponsored by DHL AgriFoods and we listened to how the CAP reform would change our business, a year on - and we are still in limbo as to how it will affect our family business. There have been leaked EU documents, rumours of conditions and no one really knows. We are waiting for the EU to spell out what they want and see how our Government chooses to implement the aims of the EU Commission.
We hope the rumours are true that production subsidies will be removed and the emphasis will be put on rewarding farmers that deliver the three pronged fork of increased production efficiency, increased farmland biodiversity and increased resource protection.  However we don’t want this three pronged fork to be turned into the devil’s trident, where the government uses it to restrict farmers who want to do more and allow the farmers who are not delivering to wriggle out with no harm or change by not fully utilising the good work that has been started under the Environmental Stewardship Schemes. We have tried and tested these schemes over the past six years. Ok, they are not perfect, but all the elements are there ready to deliver if farmers are given better value for money and given constructive direction in how to manage these new habitats correctly. Our yields are up, our biodiversity is most definitely up and our soil and water are in great condition due to being protected from any harmful over-use of inputs. We are delivering already, we want to do more but we are apprehensive about how our government is going to take this challenge forward. Time will tell!
Many people enjoy BBC’s ‘Countryfile’ on a Sunday evening. I enjoy it but feel that they should do more for our farming industry as a whole. We have met Adam Henson and he is doing a great job of introducing the general public to the ups and downs of life as a livestock farmer, with the whole TB epidemic that grips our countryside. I watched this week’s program on Sky+ and really enjoyed the special John Craven Investigates with his interview of our Prime Minister David Cameron (catch it on iplayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b019h9lz/Countryfile_08_01_2012/). This was interesting after all we had heard at Oxford. The second part is next week and we will see if the messages given by the PM will mirror the Agriculture Minister, Jim Paice’s and Caroline Spelman, Secretary of State for DEFRA’s, speeches at Oxford. They have set their stall out but will they - and when will they - deliver all that is promised? The farming industry waits with baited breath and, by the sounds of it, tweeting fingers at the ready! 
The other thing discussed at Oxford was by Patrick and me, setting a New Year’s Resolution of, each week, one of us writing a post for this Blog! Hopefully it will happen!  Time again will tell!       BWB  

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