Farm News 163

Significant price falls in the world and European dairy markets have fed through to the UK with most prices down by around 3%. The fall is softened to some extent by a weakening of the pound against the euro.

Tractor sales are marginally down across the UK in the year to date but there is wide regional variation. Sales are down over 10% in the eastern counties but up over 10% in the mixed farming areas of Lancashire and Yorkshire.

The lack of rain in the last few months is beginning to have an adverse effect on potential crop yields. Farmers are concerned that cereals and oilseed rape, on lighter land, in the south and east of England could suffer yield reductions of up 30% unless there is early rain.

A large scale outbreak of TB, involving 100 animals, has been discovered in a herd in Cumbria, an area generally free of the disease. The herd was last tested 18 months ago. It is not clear how the disease reached the farm as there has been no movement of animals. Investigations continue. The National Trust is to vaccinate badgers on land it owns in an effort to control the disease.

NFU Mutual has announced an underwriting loss of £150m for 2010 following a rise in claims costs generally and large losses in particular. After allowing for investment income, a pre-tax profit of £159m was made compared to £366m in 2009.

The government is planning to set up a new Animal Health and Welfare Board for England by the end of 2011. In a departure from previous practices the Board will include farmers and industry experts in addition to DEFRA officers and will make recommendations on policy direct to the minister concerned. A similar, informal partnership already exists in Scotland which is unlikely to change.

UK milk production rose by 4% in March amid further calls for a better deal for producers from the NFUs. The average UK price, at around 27p, is 3p/litre below the EU and a further fall in producer numbers is forecast in the autumn when feeding and housing costs increase.

The Royal Highland Agricultural Society is to go ahead with a £30m expansion of facilities at its showground, adjacent to Edinburgh airport. The plan will include a new pavilion, exhibition hall, hotels and business facilities.

A £3m on-farm anaerobic digestion plant in Lancashire will start producing commercial scale electricity next month. The plant is the first of four planned by Farmgen with the electricity already sold, under contract to Marks & Spencer.