Fields in Shropshire could be left unplanted as a combination of rising costs and reducing subsidies leave farmers facing tough decisions, according to Paul Madeley, of Madeleys Chartered Surveyors.
“We’re really entering an unknown area and farmers need to take stock,” said Mr Madeley. “Over the past 12 months, fertiliser prices have shot up from £250-£300 a tonne to nearly £1,000, which is having a huge impact on the farming industry.
“This price rise has coincided with a 20 per cent reduction to the Basic Payments Scheme in England compared to last year. Together, these factors are causing a real financial risk for smaller farms.
“July is the month that many farmers look at buying their fertilisers for the next 12 months, so it will be a big decision time for many, who are considering whether or not it’s worth planting their fields next year. We could very well see fields in Shropshire and beyond left unplanted next year, which will be an unusual situation to be in and will be far from ideal – especially with the huge focus on UK food security that has been highlighted by the conflict in Ukraine.”
However, he added that the situation might also have unexpected benefits.
“With fertiliser prices rising together with fuel and machinery costs, it means many farmers are looking at returning to more traditional methods of farming this year – methods which could actually bring some benefit to biodiversity and the environment. Farmers may be looking at utilising crop rotations better this year with the use of cover crops and nitrogen fixing crops in order to fix nitrogen together, maximising the use of organic fertilisers to reduce the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides.
“It is also clear that in the emerging schemes under ELMS and the existing Countryside Stewardship Mid Tier scheme, there are many options which can be included within an agreement in order to financially assist this with options focused on cover crops, legume fallows, etc., and herbal rich leys. Clearly the focus at present is on the protection of soils and water.
“Whatever they decide, we are urging farmers to get professional advice about the situation that they are facing. It is a perfect time to speak to an expert who can review the farming enterprise, the current Countryside Stewardship schemes and the emerging schemes that they can apply for to see how they could potentially adapt their farming enterprises and take advantage of some of the existing schemes available which would ease the situation financially but also have a positive impact on biodiversity.”