FarmWeb News – 22/10/2013

DEFRA has announced a fund to help farmers set up small anaerobic digestion (AD) plants on their farms. The money is available in two phases, firstly to fund a business case on the suitability of the scheme and secondly up to £400,000 to cover 50% of the cost of the plant.  Research is going on into converting the methane produced by AD into bio fuel for farm machinery.

Grain prices are currently firm on the strength of buoyant EU exports and the prospects of poorer crops from Russia and the Ukraine where bad weather has adversely affected plantings. The UK wheat harvest was 9% down on last year at 12m tonnes but quality was much improved.  Barley production rose 29% to 7m tonnes.

The pilot badger culls in Somerset and Gloucestershire removed an estimated 60% and 30% of the badger populations respectively. Both have applied for extensions of the six week operations to enable then to try to reach the 70% target.

Changes to the water abstraction licensing system are likely next year after a forthcoming consultation.  The system has hardly changed since the 1960s and needs updating. Direct agricultural use only accounts for 2% of water abstracted.

Savills, the land agents, forecast that agricultural land will rise in value by 40% over the next five years. The rise will be driven by a shortage of land for sale, strong demand from investors, a beneficial tax regime and expansion of existing businesses.  Values have risen 8.5% to the end of the third quarter this year.

A restructuring of the pig processing industry in Scotland has led to a 12% fall in pig numbers there. In contrast, pig numbers have risen by 11% in England, to 4m, after many years of decline.

The single farm payment rate could fall by less than the predicted 4% this year because of EU budget restrictions. However, a favourable sterling/euro exchange rate, set on 30th September, more than compensates and means the cut could be absorbed and UK farmers may not feel it. The EU needs to sign off the final figure by mid-November if payments are to start on the 1st December opening date.

A significant increase in the demand for wool has pushed sales volumes up six-fold and prices by 34% to 154p/kg. Sheep losses, due to the bad weather, led to a 10% drop in UK supplies this year.