Farm News 156

NFU Mutual has reported receiving hundreds of claims for damage to farm buildings by storm and burst pipes following the recent heavy snow falls across northern England and Scotland. The final cost to the insurance industry is set to exceed the £30m paid out for similar damage last year.

The Government considers that the EU plans to reform the CAP lack ambition and should be aimed at reducing and abolishing subsidies. Farmers should rely less on direct subsidies and be rewarded more for their work to enhance the countryside. A major reform of the CAP is scheduled for 2013.

The numbers of both sheep and cattle, in Wales, increased last year amid signs of optimism for the sector. Breeding ewes rose by 3% to 4.1m and cattle by 2% to 242,000.

A leading firm of land agents has highlighted the benefits to farmers of generating renewable energy for both own use and export to the national grid under the feed-in tariffs. For energy intensive enterprises such as dairying, the repayment time on investment can be as low as three years with significant on-going savings in future years. Income from feed-in tariffs is generally exempt from income tax provided most of the power generated is for own use.There are insurance implications for any installation.

The continuing high prices of wheat and oilseed rape are having an impact on other crops. The acreage of pulses grown in the UK is likely to fall by up to 25% as the financial return on these crops is significantly lower. The lower acreage is forecast to lead to a rise in prices with demand outstripping supply.

The price of diesel is encouraging farmers and buying groups to get together in a hedging scheme to fix forward prices. Clydesdale Bank is offering this service to the agricultural industry for the first time.

The 2010 harvest results from DEFRA show that wheat production rose 6% to 14.9m tonnes, barley was down 21% at 5.3m tonnes and oilseed rape was up 17% to a record 2.23m tonnes. Poor market prospects led to a significant fall in the acreage of barley planted.

Official figures show that overall farm incomes, across Europe, increased by 12.3% last year. However, Britain lags behind with a fall of 8.2%. The rise puts incomes back to 2008 levels but there are wide differences between member states. Milk prices rose by 9% on the Continent, far ahead of Britain which is now near the bottom of the EU milk price league.